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The kids are alright... at choosing Halloween candy!

"I am large, I contain multitudes!" - America's youth, on their candy preferences submitted via this ballot box.

"I am large, I contain multitudes!" - America's youth, on their candy preferences submitted via this ballot box. Ian Power

For the last six years I’ve taught high school English to the youth of America. In that time I’ve learned two concrete lessons as I’ve shaped your children’s soupy little minds: One, that candy is the only reason anyone does anything in school, and two, that you should always try to learn from the youth of tomorrow at least as much as you teach them. 

Every year as a teacher, I buy tons of Halloween candy to bribe the students with all throughout the month of October. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to spitefully whip candy at teenager’s faces and make it seem like it’s a reward for them for doing well. Since kids no longer handwrite anything, in ELA class, candy is the only way to get them to refrain from texting you their essays. 

It is in no way hyperbolic for me to say that in the United States today, candy is more or less the backbone of every lesson plan and college application process within public education. 

Now, as a tenured and highly effective educator in the school system that tries to teach high school kids far far less than they teach me, the key is to learn from them and let students test their strengths, preferably while all hyped up on candy. My practice is so streamlined at this point that I can go weeks without ever teaching anyone anything! And that’s what’s called “pedagogy.”

These days I just sit back and listen.... Listen to the wisdom of the young as they spout nonsense about the illuminati back and forth with me at my desk, headphones in, re-listening to Harry Potter audio books and arching fun size candy bars at their faces to encourage and fuel... and maybe inspire? 

It’s by letting the kids teach me that I’ve learned about things like competitive vaping and which AriZona Iced Tea flavors change in taste when drunk while competitively vaping!

However, not every lesson I’ve learned is so sweet. For six straight years, I’ve bought spooky fun-sized candies to entice them to work through the month of October. And for six straight years they’ve complained and incessantly ridiculed and sniped at me about my terrible taste

So three years ago I started having them vote and debate their choices. By giving them input into the election process I’ve learned one thing: There is no one type of candy that all the kids like.

For years I tried to figure out the one unifying ultra candy. It was my white whale, my rosebud, but it was a fool’s errand and not worth it, a disappointment like freezing a Charleston Chew because everyone tells you to, then biting into it and you’re like, “It’s still just a Charleston Chew.” There are trends, sure, and there are candies that almost every student likes, but there is no one perfect candy. 

No matter how good the candy is, some little shit’s always gonna write, “Starburst tastes like dick” on their ballot.  

A while ago I taught the students in my classes this Walt Whitman quote where he says, “I am large, I contain multitudes” to try to trick them into reading Leaves of Grass. It didn’t work. No one read it. But now they use that quote for everything, and rarely at a time when it’s appropriate. For instance they’ll say:

“Mr. Power, I’m going to the bathroom.” And I’ll say, “Didn’t you just go like 10 minutes ago?” 

They’ll respond, “Power, I am large, I contain multitudes!” And I’ll say “Don’t vape!” and then we’ll all laugh because who am I kidding, of course they’re going to vape!

Anyway what was my point? It was that Whitman’s poem was actually all about teenagers’ candy taste: Kids are complicated and unique and they don’t like being put into boxes. However, who cares! Here are the candies that 99 percent of kids in my classes agree are undeniably good.

Kit Kat, Twix, Reese’s, Snickers, Starburst, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Haribo, and Peanut M&M’s:

They also really love this candy called Hi-Chew that they showed me, it’s like a Taiwanese Starburst and it’s amazing but it’s hard to find and so I never get it for Halloween candy month. But Kit Kat, Twix, Reese’s, Snickers, Starburst, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Haribo, and Peanut M&M’s are safe bets for everyone if you want to buy candy that kids like a lot. They are almost unanimously loved by schoolchildren, aside from a few weird freaks who don’t like chocolate or hate Reese’s for some stupid reason.

Some trends of note:

Kids at my school specifically really love Kit Kat and Twix; they seem to love them way more than other candies. They even like the weird other types of Kit Kat—those Kit Kat side projects. Kids go apeshit for Kit Kat. They also insist that the Twix do in fact taste different if you get a Left Twix versus a Right Twix. They were very much duped by that marketing campaign, but they stick to their guns. One thing I’m consistently flabbergasted by is that students in my school like Kit Kat and Twix more than they like Reese’s and Snickers, which definitely reigned supreme when I was in school but I am old and stupid and they are cool and young right?

One thing we all agree on is the Halloween Reese’s Pumpkin shape is far superior to the regular Reese’s. They all argue that the chocolate to peanut butter ratio is better in the pumpkin shape and I agree.  

They also convinced me you can buy fun-size Haribo and Sour Patch bags for trick-or-treating too, which I didn’t know about but am excited by.  

Another important thing that many students brought up is that you shouldn’t buy “old ass” candy at the dollar store because it tastes “old ass.” You gotta get the freshy candy at good stores like CVS or Target. 

Also, they note that it’s a huge mistake to buy those big multipacks of candy that are all one company: like a Hershey’s Assorted Pack or a Mars Candy Pack etc. This is what I always used to buy them thinking they would get the most different stuff that way but they assured me that I am an idiot and here’s why: A lot of the time there is ONE great candy in those bags, then TWO mediocre candies and THREE bad candies that they want to get rid of because they suck; it’s a literal mixed bag. It’s called the one-two-three problem and it’s a big issue that the youth are facing on a level with global warming. We have handed this problem down to our children and just force them to deal with candies that kind of suck like regular Hershey Bars, Twizzlers, Whoppers, and Milk Duds. Kids also don’t seem to really like Milky Way or 3 Musketeers so they say those assortment bags are trash. 

Now some kids argue that Milky Way and 3 Musketeers in fact slap but still others say that Milky Way and 3 Musketeers slap only if there is nothing else to eat. So then to help them I made up a phrase called “soft slaps” for when something is kind of tasty, like a kind of “lil’ slap,” and I tried to get that going in my classes but they all laughed at me and made fun of me for the rest of the day about saying “soft slaps,” so don’t say “soft slaps” around teens. 

Honestly, I never really thought about those assorted bags of candy being bad but it makes sense. I think that the reason I never questioned them before now is because I’m dead inside and will just flagrantly eat bad candy if it’s there because it’s there. 

***

And that's the real takeaway from all of this: I’m dead inside but kids aren’t. The kids care about what candy I get for them—hell, they care about which candy I eat! They want ME to eat good candy because when you’re 16, you still care about things even if they’re incredibly inane, and especially if they waste time in class like an hour-long debate about Halloween candy when you’re supposed to be studying for the state exam.  

They want the best candy for themselves and will argue and debate and trash talk because they love having opinions and being right and caring about stuff. They have dream candy because they have dreams that haven’t been run over by the world for 20 years. I am accustomed to settling and so I’ll just sit in my classroom and eat terrible candy until I feel insane, go into diabetic shock, and then wake up 45 minutes later to start the commute home. Teenagers insist that candy can be better, that we can be better at buying candy and that all of us should be better. 

This optimism and innocence is, above all else, sweet. I mean why do you think I keep buying them candy?