2013 - 2014

A Student’s Predicament: Stressing The Stress

American society promotes a rigorous education program, but there is only so much students can handle. “Enjoy your childhood.” That’s the phrase we constantly hear from our elders. Life goes too fast. Enjoy being young. Well, with the emphasis on our future, we really have no choice but to leave our childhood behind, before even […]

American society promotes a rigorous education program, but there is only so much students can handle.

“Enjoy your childhood.”

That’s the phrase we constantly hear from our elders. Life goes too fast. Enjoy being young.

Well, with the emphasis on our future, we really have no choice but to leave our childhood behind, before even really realizing that it happened.

Essentially the American school system in an escalating cycle of rigor. Schools strive to be in the top ranks, offer the most difficult courses, and provide academics to get there. In competition, students are forced to go along for the ride as they take the hardest courses.

Over the past years academics have become more challenging, colleges have become harder to get into, and school is becoming more intense.

It’s all a competition to get into college. Who has the best grades? Who achieved the highest test scores? Who survived the most challenging schedule?

But where is this really taking us?

We are trained to be the best so we can take our education to the next step. After we have completed the steps of our education, where are we supposed to go?

Our education does not even really prepare us for life. Learning the mechanics of memorization and test taking strategies is irrelevant to the critical thinking and analyzing the tasks of our futures require. We learn how to just barely survive so we can move on to the next level of our education, but we do not get real world opportunities or experiences.

This constant stress of just barely surviving tests, projects, and other school assignments is overwhelming.

Yes it is important to learn, but in order to be efficient, we should have environments where we are relaxed and positive; not stressed and surrounded by anxiety and competition.

This competitive atmosphere sometimes takes away from our ability to form friendships with our classmates.

“Sometimes instead of generating a comradery between kids our own age, we view them as competition,” Rosey Kenshol (‘15) elaborated on this. “I think that the American school system is doing a poor job. Its teaching us stuff, but I know a lot of kids with mental health problems as a result of school like depression or anxiety.”

There is only so much kids can handle. After all, that’s what we are–just kids. The only reason we are “grown-ups” is because there is such an emphasis put on our future. We are given no time to enjoy the present because we literally have no other option than to focus on what is to come. Going on a walk to enjoy the warm spring breeze and watch the flowers bloom comes second to last minute cramming in that dungeon of a room for an exam that will determine the difference between a B and a C and therefore the difference between Ivy League or not.

“While college is important,” Rosey said, “you’re more focused on the future, so you don’t get to enjoy the now.”

Many students have the same feelings about school. It is a crucial institution, but the fixation on grades and futures is overwhelming.

Life should not be centered around school every second of the day, but that is what it is. We are trained to sit at our desks for seven hours a day, focus the entire time so we get the most out of our educational opportunity, go home and do work so we can retain the information.

“The most stressful thing about school for me is the waiting period after I have turned in a big paper or a project and also when I have several big tests on one day,” Natalie Wiseman (‘15) explained. “All of this added on top of my already crazy heavy load of two organizations outside of school where I hold officers positions, a job, trying to stay on top of homework, a competitive sport, and starting to work on deciding on colleges makes for an extremely stressful schedule.”

Most of the time teachers place their class as a priority to all other courses. Students are left with the burden of seven teachers loading on the homework with no excuses for not getting it all done…wait what?

“Seven classes is a lot of work to do every night,” Rosey agreed, “And each teacher assigns a lot usually. Sometimes it is hard to get done.”

On this note, when talking about AP courses, Mr. Michael Hood, the Advanced Placement US History teacher discussed the stress load.

“There’s a lot of stress. It really depends on two factors,” he explained. “One is how many other AP classes they are taking, or honors. And two, is what are their extracurricular activities. AP students are always doing a lot of other stuff that is hugely time consuming in addition to the classes they take.”

The dilemma of the modern high school student.

The dilemma of the modern high school student.

It’s simply too much. But there is nothing I can say to change the situation. Everyone is so caught up in being the best, the smartest–we’re just too far in to reverse what we have built up as the highest values. Even I myself am caught up in the competition. Education today is just a game. And everyone has to learn the most effective and successful way to play it. If I were to slack off, I would end up killing my grades, ruining my chances of college. I would lose the game. However, the amount of work and the competition that come as obstacles in the game make it extremely difficult to stay focused and win.

“If I were to change one thing about the American school system it would be to find a way to regulate tests and projects so that a single student couldn’t have more than two tests or projects due in one school day and depending on the difficulty and magnitude of the tests maybe even only one,” Natalie articulated.

It is practically impossible to do everything that is required of us. Even then sometimes it still is not what colleges look for. A student can participate in 5 extracurriculars, achieve a 5.0, and still not get into Stanford. What did I not do? What else could I have done? Nothing. As it is, the amount of healthy sleep in one night is eight to nine hours. Not very many kids I know have the luxury of even getting seven hours a night.

The choice is theirs: get sleep and watch grades fall or stay up all night studying, and hope for improvement and better grades. If they chose sleep, then they wake up the next morning with even more stress, scrambling to make up for the lost time the previous night. If they chose grades, focusing throughout the next day becomes even harder and their plan backfires.

I cannot stress the stress–there’s just an unreal amount of it. So many breakdowns, anxiety, depression, and negativity. “I’m not good enough.” “I can’t do it.” “I’m so done with everything right now.” Just listen, I guarantee I hear those phrases every single day. But we have to struggle through.

Education is by no means a negative thing; it is an opportunity that all people should have. It’s just the implications of having such a rigorous system that makes it difficult to be our own people and enjoy the fortunate lives we have. The stress makes it hard to appreciate the positives around us.

However, school does have the capability of knocking the personality out of us. We grow up in a culture where schools strive to be the best. Teachers want what is best for their students, and in order to help understand the material and pass the exams, they load on work.

Above all, education should be more focused on the life that is in store for students in the real world. Classes should be focused on world relations, cultural dilemmas, the way stock markets function, and even home economics.

These exist in the forms of electives, but really they should be at the core of our education. Our confidence levels might rise in the slightest if we actually know we are doing what we excel at.

But we wouldn’t be able to do this anyway, because we wouldn’t be fulfilling the core requirements. Really it would be logical if students could, in a responsible way be able to focus their education on fields they are looking to pursue. Of course, exposure to all fields is a necessity, but rigor in biology will not help someone trying to pursue a degree in French.

These are all something we should learn at some point, but we should not feel obligated to study them if we want to go into a field that has nothing to do with them. It’s our lives, but we let the government run what we do because we have to do well in school so we get into college and so we end up with a good job.

We are prohibited from being ourselves under the pressure of our rigorous school system. We are essentially robots that are told what to do, go home, and do our best to get it all done.

From a teachers point of view, Mr. Hood sees this automatic “just do it” in students. “There is a certain level of seriousness that comes with taking the AP classes. AP students are a little bit more inclined to do the work. I can simply say do this, and most people will do it.”

Taking in and regurgitating material as well as doing what we are told are things we are trained to do; we know if we do not complete work the consequences will keep adding up in our futures.

In kindergarten, we are taught how to learn. Throughout elementary school and middle school we set up study habits, learn how to think critically, memorizing important facts, and discover the concepts of inferring and interpreting material.

Then high school becomes the place to apply what our former years have taught us. Whoever has given up most of their childhood and devoted themselves to the greatest extent to their education becomes the “smartest” and the top of the class.

It is up to us to handle school in the most effective way possible, so we can reach the greatest level of achievement, but sometimes the stress of this responsibility and burden becomes simply too much.

Is this education game really a fair one?

Not so much.

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