English Essay Writing Competition Topics Of Conversation

A word cloud created from all the questions compiled below.

Updated, June 20, 2017 | Looking for more lists of student questions? Try these:


We’ve posted a fresh Student Opinion question nearly every weekday for almost three years now. Here are the 163 we asked during the 2011-12 school year.

Each question is based on content from that week’s New York Times, and all of them are still open to comment by anyone from ages 13-25.

Teachers tell us they use our questions to help students practice writing persuasively, as inspiration for lessons, as jumping-off points for class discussions and debates — or just to encourage engagement with current events and with students from classrooms around the world.

Given the emphasis in the Common Core Standards on both reading informational texts and writing arguments, having your students answer our question daily can help address several literacy goals at once. And since we don’t allow last names, and we read every comment before we post it to make sure it conforms to our standards, The Learning Network is also a secure place for students to post.

And, because this blog and all the Times articles we link to on it are accessible without a digital subscription, each linked article is free to read.

Below, 163 recent questions, with bonus links at the end to nearly 250 more. How will you use them?


  1. Do Apps Help You or Just Waste Your Time?
  2. Do You Keep a Diary or Journal?
  3. Should Schools Offer Cash Bonuses for Good Test Scores?
  4. Would You Like to Take a Class Online?
  5. Are Children of Illegal Immigrants Entitled to a Public Education?
  6. What Is Your Personal Credo?
  7. How Do You Personalize the Things You’re Required to Have at School?
  8. Should Students Be Required to Take Drug Tests?
  9. Do You Participate in Class?
  10. Do Attractive People Have Advantages Others Don’t?
  11. What Motivates You?
  12. Do You Support Affirmative Action?
  13. What Role Does Television Play in Your Life and the Life of Your Family?
  14. Why Do You Write?
  15. How Do You Use Facebook?
  16. What Journey Do You Most Want to Make?
  17. What Are You Afraid Of?
  18. What Have You Made Yourself?
  19. Do You Trust Your Government?
  20. What Are Your Favorite Cartoons?
  21. Who Is Your Role Model?
  22. Does Pop Culture Deserve Serious Study?
  23. Do You Have Good Manners?
  24. What Causes Should Philanthropic Groups Finance?
  25. Should Fertilized Eggs Be Given Legal Personhood?
  26. What Challenges Have You Set for Yourself?
  27. Have You Experienced Sexual Harassment?
  28. Do Leaders Have Moral Obligations?
  29. Would You Want to Be Home-Schooled?
  30. Do Presidential Candidates Need to Be Good Debaters?
  31. Do You Shop at Locally Owned Businesses?
  32. Are You a Brand?
  33. Do You Sympathize With the Occupy Wall Street Movement?
  34. What Do You Read, and How Do You Read It?
  35. Should People Be Allowed to Obscure Their Identities Online?
  36. Which Is More Important: Talent or Hard Work?
  37. Do Your Parents Support Your Learning?
  38. What Are You Grateful For?
  39. What Time Should Black Friday Sales Start?
  40. What Are You Good At?
  41. Do Photoshopped Images Make You Feel Bad About Your Own Looks?
  42. When in Your Life Have You Been a Leader?
  43. What Would You Put in Your Emergency ‘Go-Bag’?
  44. What Artists or Bands of Today Are Destined for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
  45. Which Republican Candidate Will Win the Presidential Nomination?
  46. What’s Next for Computing?
  47. What New Emoticons Does the World Need?
  48. Should the Morning-After Pill Be Sold Over the Counter to People Under 17?
  49. Are We Losing the Art of Listening?
  50. Do You Discuss Religion With Friends?
  51. What Places in Your Past Do You Appreciate More Now, From a Distance?
  52. Would You Consider Deleting Your Facebook Account?
  53. Is It Wrong to Sell Store-Bought Pastries at a Bake Sale?
  54. What Will You Remember Most From 2011?
  55. Have You Ever Interacted With the Police?
  56. Can You Be Good Without God?
  57. What’s Your Favorite Holiday Food Memory?
  58. How Are You Spending the Holiday Break?
  59. Do You Make New Year’s Resolutions?
  60. Do You Have a Signature Clothing Item?
  61. Do Your Teachers Use Technology Well?
  62. What Would Your Personal Mascot Be?
  63. What Is Your Favorite Place?
  64. What if Your Parent Ran for President?
  65. What Game Would You Like to Redesign?
  66. What’s Your Favorite (Printable) Slang Term?
  67. Should Charities Focus More on America?
  68. What Is the Right Amount of Group Work in School?
  69. Given Unlimited Resources, What Scientific or Medical Problem Would You Investigate?
  70. Who Would You Share Your Passwords With?
  71. Do You Think You’re Brave?
  72. What Is Your Most Memorable Writing Assignment?
  73. What Would You Like to Learn on Your Own?
  74. What’s Your Response to Obama’s Third State of the Union Address?
  75. What Are the Best Movies You Saw in 2011?
  76. Should the Dropout Age Be Raised?
  77. How Should You Handle the End of a Friendship?
  78. Do You Have a Blog?
  79. Do You Watch the Super Bowl?
  80. Do You Cook?
  81. Do College Rankings Matter?
  82. Do You Like Being Alone?
  83. What Story Does Your Personal Data Tell?
  84. How Would You Make Over Your Mall?
  85. How Do Male and Female Roles Differ in Your Family?
  86. Should Home-Schoolers Be Allowed to Play Public School Sports?
  87. Do You Eat Too Quickly?
  88. Who Inspires You?
  89. Are You a Novelty-Seeker?
  90. Would You Rather Attend a Public or a Private High School?
  91. How Much Information Is ‘Too Much Information’?
  92. Should Companies Collect Information About You?
  93. What Do You Eat During the School Day?
  94. What Are Your Favorite Young Adult Novels?
  95. What Kind of Feedback Helps You Improve?
  96. What Are Your Family Stories of Sacrifice?
  97. What’s the Racial Makeup of Your School?
  98. Fluent in Vocal Fry, Creaky Voice or Uptalk?
  99. What Would You Name Your Neighborhood?
  100. Can Kindness Become Cool?
  101. What Is Your Reaction to the Rush Limbaugh Controversy?
  102. What Have You Done to Earn Money?
  103. What Questions Do You Have About How the World Works?
  104. What Are Your Favorite Junk Foods?
  105. How Well Do You Think Standardized Tests Measure Your Abilities?
  106. How Important Is It to Have a Driver’s License?
  107. Do Social Media Campaigns Like Kony 2012 Stunt or Stimulate Real Change?
  108. How Do You Feel About Zoos?
  109. Would You Quit if Your Values Did Not Match Your Employers?
  110. Should the R Rating for ‘Bully’ Be Changed?
  111. Are Antismoking Ads Effective?
  112. Where Is the Line Between Truth and Fiction?
  113. How Productive and Organized Are You?
  114. What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen in a Museum?
  115. What Is Your Reaction to the Trayvon Martin Case?
  116. What Can Other Schools Learn — and Copy — From Your School?
  117. What Do You Hope to Be Doing the Year After You Graduate From College?
  118. What Small Things Have You Seen and Taken Note of Today?
  119. Do You Know How to Code?
  120. What Movies, Shows or Books Do You Wish Had Sequels, Spinoffs or New Episodes?
  121. What Would You Do If You Won the Lottery?
  122. Do You Want to Write a Book?
  123. How Do You Celebrate Spring?
  124. Do You Spend Too Much Time on Smart Phones Playing ‘Stupid Games’?
  125. How Do You Archive Your Life?
  126. Should Couples Live Together Before Marriage?
  127. What Is Your Fantasy Vacation?
  128. Is It Ethical to Eat Meat?
  129. What Things Did You Create When You Were a Child?
  130. When Did You Last Have a Great Conversation?
  131. Why Do You Share Photos?
  132. What Leader Would You Invite to Speak at Your School?
  133. What Have You And Your Family Accomplished Together?
  134. Is TV Too White?
  135. How Necessary Is a College Education?
  136. How Much Does Your Life in School Intersect With Your Life Outside School?
  137. How Important Is Keeping Your Cool?
  138. Do You Prefer Your Tacos ‘Authentic’ or ‘Appropriated’?
  139. What’s Cluttering Up Your Life?
  140. When Have You Ever Failed at Something? What Happened as a Result?
  141. What Teacher Do You Appreciate?
  142. Do You Prefer Your Children’s Book Characters Obedient or Contrary?
  143. When Should You Feel Guilty for Killing Zombies?
  144. How Should Parents Address Internet Pornography?
  145. Does Mitt Romney’s High School Bullying Matter?
  146. Is TV Stronger Than Ever, or Becoming Obsolete?
  147. When Is It O.K. to Replace Human Limbs With Technology?
  148. How Far Would You Go for Fashion?
  149. How Often Do You Interact With People of Another Race or Ethnicity?
  150. What Would Your Fantasy Road Trip Be Like?
  151. Would You Consider a Nontraditional Occupation?
  152. How Full Is Your Glass?
  153. What’s On Your Summer Reading List?
  154. What’s Your Comfort Food?
  155. What Cuts Should Cash-Strapped Schools Make?
  156. When Do You Become an Adult?
  157. Who Would Be the Ideal Celebrity Neighbor?
  158. How Close Are You to Your Parents?
  159. How Do You Keep Up With the News?
  160. What Advice Would You Give to Somebody Who Just Started Dating?
  161. What Is Your Opinion About the Morning-After Pill?
  162. Do You Have a Job?
  163. When Should Juvenile Offenders Receive Life Sentences?

Not Enough? Here are 150 Student Opinion questions from 2011, as well as 55 and another 40 from 2010.

A word cloud created from all the questions compiled below.

We’ve posted a fresh Student Opinion question nearly every weekday for almost four years now. Here are the 182 we asked during the 2012-13 school year.

Each question is based on content from that week’s New York Times, and all are still open to comment by anyone 13-25 years old. Each linked Times article is also accessible without a digital subscription.

Teachers tell us they use these questions to help students practice writing persuasively; as inspiration for lessons; as jumping-off points for class discussions and debates; or just to encourage student engagement with current events and with young people from around the world.

This year, because of the emphasis on argument in the Common Core standards, we’ve divided the questions into two categories — those that easily lend themselves to classroom debate and persuasive writing, and those that are more suitable for creative, personal or reflective writing.

Tell us below how you use our Student Opinion feature in your classroom.


Questions for Debate and Persuasive Writing

  1. Is Cheating Getting Worse?
  2. If Football Is So Dangerous to Players, Should We Be Watching It?
  3. Should the Private Lives of Famous People Be Off Limits?
  4. Do Great Leaders Have to Be Outgoing?
  5. Should Students Be Able to Grade Their Teachers?
  6. Should Middle School Students Be Drug Tested?
  7. Should the Government Limit the Size of Sugary Drinks?
  8. Should Schools Put Tracking Devices in Students’ I.D. Cards?
  9. Do You Think a Healthier School Lunch Program Is a Lost Cause?
  10. Should Athletes Who Dope Have to Forfeit Their Titles and Medals?
  11. How Much Pressure Do Boys Face to Have the Perfect Body?
  12. How, and by Whom, Should Children Be Taught Appropriate Behavior?
  13. What Current Musicians Do You Think Will Stand the Test of Time?
  14. How Concerned Are You About Climate Change?
  15. Are Digital Photographs Too Plentiful to Be Meaningful?
  16. Do You Think a Longer School Calendar Is a Good Idea?
  17. Is It Wrong for a Newspaper to Publish a Front-Page Photo of a Man About to Die?
  18. Should Engineers Pay Less for College Than English Majors?
  19. When Should You Compromise?
  20. Should You Care About the Health and Safety of Those Making Your Clothing?
  21. How Should We Prevent Future Mass Shootings?
  22. Does Reality TV Promote Dangerous Stereotypes?
  23. Did a Newspaper Act Irresponsibly by Publishing the Addresses of Gun Owners?
  24. Is Dating a Thing of the Past?
  25. Would You Feel Safer With Armed Guards Patrolling Your School?
  26. Should Women Be Allowed to Fight on the Front Lines Alongside Men?
  27. Have Curse Words Become So Common They Have Lost Their Shock Value?
  28. Is School Designed More for Girls Than Boys?
  29. What Makes a Good Commercial?
  30. Do Violent Video Games Make People More Violent in Real Life?
  31. Should All Children Be Able to Go to Preschool?
  32. Can Graffiti Ever Be Considered Art?
  33. Should Reading and Math Be Taught in Gym Class Too?
  34. Where Should Colleges and Sports Teams Draw the Line in Selling Naming Rights?
  35. How Should Children Be Taught About Puberty and Sex?
  36. Would You Rather Work From Home or in an Office?
  37. Is It O.K. for Men and Boys to Comment on Women and Girls on the Street?
  38. Should Students Be Allowed to Skip Senior Year of High School?
  39. How Many Text Messages Are Too Many?
  40. Does Buying and Accumulating More and More Stuff Make Us Happier?
  41. Do ‘Shame and Blame’ Work to Change Teenage Behavior?
  42. Do You Think Life Exists — or Has Ever Existed — Somewhere Besides Earth?
  43. Should Computer Games Be Used for Classroom Instruction?
  44. What Should We Do to Fight Sexual Violence Against Young Women?
  45. Do You Think Child Stars Have It Rough?
  46. How Important Do You Think It Is to Marry Someone With the Same Religion?
  47. How Would You Feel About a Computer Grading Your Essays?
  48. Should There Be Stricter Rules About How Coaches Treat Their Players?
  49. Should Colleges Fund Wellness Programs Instead of Sports?
  50. Why Aren’t There More Girls in Leadership Roles?
  51. Do Bystanders Have a Responsibility to Intervene When There is Trouble?
  52. When Should You Be Able to Buy Cigarettes, Drink Alcohol, Vote, Drive and Fight in Wars?
  53. How Big a Deal Is It That an N.B.A. Player Came Out as Gay?
  54. How Do You Feel About Rihanna and Chris Brown Getting Back Together?
  55. Is Prom Worth It?
  56. Should Birth Control Pills Be Available to Teenage Girls Without a Prescription?
  57. Do People Complain Too Much?
  58. Would You Want a Pair of Google’s Computer Glasses?
  59. Should What You Say on Facebook Be Grounds for Getting Fired?
  60. Should Children Be Allowed to Wear Whatever They Want?
  61. Should Marijuana Be Legal?
  62. What Role Will Robots Play in Our Future?
  63. Is Drinking and Driving Still a Problem for Teenagers?
  64. Why Did a Cheerios Ad Attract So Many Angry Comments Online?
  65. Would You Want a Bike Share Program for Your Community?
  66. What Do You Think of Grouping Students by Ability in Schools?
  67. Questions for Creative, Personal or Reflective Writing

  68. How Would the Presidential Campaigns Change if the Voting Age Were 13?
  69. What Are You Looking Forward To, or Dreading, This School Year?
  70. How Competitive Are You?
  71. What Music Inspires You?
  72. When Have You Ever Succeeded When You Thought You Might Fail?
  73. What ‘Back-to-the-Land’ Skills Do You Have, or Wish You Had?
  74. Would You Ever Go Through Hazing to Be Part of a Group?
  75. Is Trying Too Hard to Be Happy Making You Sad?
  76. What Are Your Sleep Habits?
  77. What Experiences Have You Had With Gender Bias in School?
  78. How Did You Start Doing Something You Love?
  79. To What Company Would You Write a Letter of Complaint or Admiration?
  80. Watching the First Presidential Debate: What Is Your Reaction?
  81. What Words or Phrases Do You Think Are Overused?
  82. Are You Less Religious Than Your Parents?
  83. Do You Perform Better When You’re Competing or When You’re Collaborating?
  84. The Second Presidential Debate: Your Predictions and Reactions
  85. Do You Ever ‘Mix It Up’ and Socialize With Different People at School?
  86. What Are the Most Memorable Meals You’ve Ever Had?
  87. What Magazines Do You Read, and How Do You Read Them?
  88. Have You Ever Changed a Family Member’s Mind?
  89. What Are Your Reactions to the Final Presidential Debate and Predictions for Nov. 6?
  90. What Are the Best Souvenirs You’ve Ever Collected While Traveling?
  91. Do You Like Scary Movies and Books?
  92. What Are Your Experiences With Severe Weather?
  93. Has Anyone Ever Said That You Look Like Someone Famous?
  94. How Do You Help?
  95. Are You Distracted by Technology?
  96. When Have You Spoken Out About Something You Felt Had to Change?
  97. Who Do You Hope Wins the Election?
  98. What Is Your Reaction to the Results of the Election?
  99. Is Your Bedroom a Nightmare?
  100. Who Are the ‘Characters’ That Make Your Town Interesting?
  101. How Would Your Life Be Different If You Had Better Listening Skills?
  102. How Often Do You Cry?
  103. With Your Home in Danger, What Would You Try to Save?
  104. How Careful Are You Online?
  105. Have You Ever Been Scammed?
  106. Do You Sometimes ‘Hide’ Behind Irony?
  107. What Would You Invent to Make the World a Better Place?
  108. How Well Do You Get Along With Your Siblings?
  109. How Much Can People Change?
  110. What’s Your Karaoke Song?
  111. How Do You Make Parenting Difficult for Your Parents?
  112. Have You Ever Been in Love?
  113. When Have You Seen Yourself and Your Life Reflected in a Book or Other Media?
  114. What Are Your Tips for Enjoying the Holiday Season?
  115. How Stressed Are You?
  116. The Newtown School Shootings: A Place to Post Your Thoughts
  117. What Will You Remember Most From 2012?
  118. How Will You Spend the Holiday Break?
  119. What Are Your Hopes for 2013?
  120. When Has a Teacher Inspired You?
  121. What Will People Wear at Costume Parties Celebrating the 2000s?
  122. How Often Do You Leave Your ‘Comfort Zone’?
  123. Do Adults Who Are ‘Only Trying to Help’ Sometimes Make Things Worse?
  124. What Were the Best Movies You Saw in 2012?
  125. Does Facebook Ever Make You Feel Bad?
  126. What Have Your Parents Taught You About Money?
  127. If You Could Go Anywhere, Where Would You Want to Travel?
  128. Would You Want to Grow Up in the Public Eye?
  129. What Do You Do When You Encounter Obstacles to Success?
  130. Was There a Toy You Wanted as a Child But Never Got?
  131. How Do You Fight the Winter Blues?
  132. Who Will Win Super Bowl XLVII? Will You Be Watching?
  133. What Tech Tools Play the Biggest Role in Your Life?
  134. How Well Do You Know Your Pet?
  135. Does Being a Fan Help Define Who You Are?
  136. What’s the Most Memorable Thing You Ever Got in the Mail?
  137. What Food Would You Like to Judge in a Taste-Off?
  138. Does Your Life Leave You Enough Time to Relax?
  139. What Are Your Predictions for and Reactions to the State of the Union Address?
  140. Read Any Good Books Lately?
  141. Have You Ever Found Something Valuable?
  142. What Investment Are You Willing to Make to Get Your Dream Job?
  143. What Would You Wait in Line For?
  144. What Are Your Favorite Viral Videos?
  145. How Good is Your Grammar?
  146. What’s the Most Impressive Sports Moment You’ve Seen?
  147. Have You Ever Taken Something You Weren’t Supposed To?
  148. What Was Your Most Precious Childhood Possession?
  149. How Much Do You Know About Your Family’s History?
  150. Do You Ever Feel Guilty About What, or How Much, You Throw Away?
  151. What Makes You Happy?
  152. What Would Your Fantasy Spring Break Be Like?
  153. What Are Your Sources for Information About Colleges and Universities?
  154. What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen in Nature?
  155. How Does Your School Deal With Students Who Misbehave?
  156. Do You Ever Seek Advice on the Internet?
  157. What Would Your Ideal Summer Camp Be Like?
  158. Do You Spend Too Much Time Preparing for Standardized Tests?
  159. Where Do You Want to Go to College?
  160. What Have Been Your Reactions This Week to News About the Boston Marathon Bombings?
  161. Would You Ever Consider Getting a Tattoo?
  162. What Six People, Living or Dead, Would You Invite to Dinner?
  163. What Would You Teach the World in an Online Video?
  164. What Were Your Favorite Picture Books When You Were Little?
  165. Have You Ever Felt Embarrassed by Things You Used to Like?
  166. How Do You React When Provoked?
  167. What Kind of ‘Little Free Library’ Would You Create for Your Community?
  168. Do You Have Helicopter Parents?
  169. When Has a Sports Team Most Disappointed You?
  170. How Important Is Driving to You?
  171. What Would Your Dream Home Be Like?
  172. Do You Wish You Could Return to Moments From Your Past?
  173. How Much Slang Do You Use? What Are Your Favorite (Printable) Words?
  174. Do You Plan on Saving Any of Your Belongings for the Future?
  175. What Old Television Shows Would You Bring Back?
  176. How Careful Are You in the Sun?
  177. Do You Enjoy Reading Tabloid Gossip?
  178. What Are Your Favorite Names?
  179. What’s on Your Summer Reading List?
  180. What Are You Listening To?
  181. How Do You React to Strangers Having Private Conversations in Public?
  182. What Are the Most Important Innovations of the Last 50 Years?
  183. Have You Ever Stumbled Upon a Cool Public Performance?

Not Enough? Here are 163 Student Opinion questions from 2012, as well as 150 from 2011, 55 and another 40 from 2010.

Please note: From June 14 to Aug. 16, we’ll ask only one Student Opinion question: What Interested You Most in The Times This Week? Posting an answer any week will automatically enter anyone 13 to 19 years old in our Summer Reading Contest. On Aug. 19, our usual daily school-year questions will resume.

Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.

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