Dear Schools, There’s a Difference Between Challenging And Overwhelming

September has become synonymous with school, almost to the point where I forget about the fact it’s fall. As a sophomore in high school, I know what’s expected of me, what I expect from myself, and what I need to do every year to meet these academic standards and broaden my horizons regarding colleges and whatnot. However, I can’t help but notice that school has really deviated from learning, considering the fact I learn more from the internet and my fellow peers then I do in a professional institution designed to teach me. I go to a wonderful high school that I absolutely love, where I have definitely learned a lot and have had many great teachers and met many new people, but in the back of my mind, and I’m sure this applies to a lot of students, I can’t help but feel that the validity of this education and my intellect is based on the grades my teachers give me and how “well” I do their  assignments.

There are many problems with the system of education in America, the fact that it inherently fails students of color and lower class kids, the fact that schools are not doing enough for students struggling with physical disabilities, impediments and mental illness, and the fact that under Trumps administration Ms. Betsy-I-Bought-My-Way-Up-To-The-Top-DeVos is the secretary of Education. These are very real and existing issues, but they are not the ones I will be discussing today. The issue at hand is that Schools do not know when to stop. When to stop giving homework, tests, assignments and various other assessments that mean absolutely nothing.

There’s a fear amongst adults that teenagers are wasting their lives, filling their heads by worshipping the pop culture in our country, that we’re essentially living a life carefree and full of nothing, however, this is just another false rumor. Teenagers in this country are actually more stressed than adults. This is an unhealthy amount of stress, and not only this but along with the many things that happen to teenagers in adolescence whether it is physical or mental, this stress is overbearing.

Schools are being marketed as “challenging”, but they are crossing a very fine line into Overwhelmingness. Students live under the fear that if we do poorly in high school, we can’t get into college (affording it is a whole other story that my friends at FAFSA would love to explain to you. Basically if you make more than a dollar a year the best they can do is give you a hug (I’m kidding, sort of) ), and if we don’t go to college, we cannot get a job and that means no money, which is the basis of everything in our society, unfortunately. We are expected to be “well-rounded’ (whatever that means), get good grades, actively participate in clubs, ace the SATs, keep up a social life, and along with that, schools have the audacity to advocate eating all meals and getting 8 hours of sleep. When I chose what high school I wanted to go to, I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that my high school gave a lot of work, but I went because it was open-minded, tolerant, diverse and uncensored. I still would not trade it for the world, but sometimes it irks me a little when people call my school “challenging” because it’s not. Quite frankly, it can get a little overwhelming, as do most specialized and selective Schools in NYC (where I reside) and around the country.

This does not mean that the students are smarter or that the schools are better though. In fact, countries like Finland have not only cut down the amount of time students spend in school but the amount of homework they give, and Finnish students excel in academics in comparison to the U.S. and most countries. This is because students are less stressed and more open to actually learning the concepts than just memorizing it for the test or only learning parts of it just so they can do well on some assessment.

I don’t mean to sound like a privileged “snowflake” either, I understand what it means to be a female of color going to school without anything directly threatening me and I am forever grateful for that, but there is a problem with American Schools and the expectations that they set up for students, and because of them, students are destined to fail themselves. While striving for that A in that one class, they are neglecting their own well-being, living off of Monster Energy Drinks and Red Bull is not a way to live. Neglecting your own mental health just to pass that one class is an issue that will exponentially grow if you don’t take a breather, and in our country, school and stress have directly been related to the suicides of many youths. Adolescence is a period of growth, especially in terms of figuring out yourself as a person, and with all these other factors interfering many students are placing themselves second after their work. Challenging, by definition means “testing one’s abilities”, but schools aren’t testing the abilities of their students, they’re giving their students an inordinate amount of work and expecting them to have it done and perfected so that they will get an A.

Education is very important, but not when it places the needs of students second to their test-taking abilities.



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