Is It Worth It? | Teen Ink

Is It Worth It? MAG

January 14, 2019
By kaknight20 BRONZE, Village Of Clarkston, Michigan
kaknight20 BRONZE, Village Of Clarkston, Michigan
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

It’s eleven o’clock and I only have two more assignments to do. I’m rushing, typing values into my calculator and scribbling them in a table. Once that sheet is filled out, I shove it into my two-inch thick folder of papers and flip open my laptop. Frantically typing, exhaustion setting in, my thoughts begin to wander. What would happen if I just let this one go? The assignment is docked by 10 percent? I can’t let that happen. In my mind, a lower score means a lower grade, which means a lower GPA, which means my chances of getting into my college of choice are doomed. I’m so tired, I don’t see how warped and unhealthy my train of thought has become. Perhaps this mentality can’t be attributed to my fatigued and overworked state, though. Perhaps I have been ignoring my faulted method of thinking for longer than just one night.


I laugh when people tell me that my teenage years will be the best years of my life. In some ways, they’re right. I don’t have to worry about paying bills or taking care of a family. There’s one tiny downside to my teenage years so far, though: the chronic stress. It’s not just me, either. My friends and classmates express on a daily basis that they feel this way too. To top it off, students are constantly being blamed for putting this pressure on themselves. I guess in the literal sense we are the direct sources of our own stress; I am the one who fills out my schedule card every February. However, I am the way I am because I have been brainwashed by our community, our society, and our country. We need to address the fact that our overly competitive world is ruining students’ youths by driving them into a turmoil of stress and anxiety greater than ever before.


When I moved up to middle school, I fell into the cycle of academic competition as my elementary teachers placed me into advanced classes. I was pushed by my parents, teachers, and friends to take as many as possible, to cram them into my schedule even though I was only 12 years old at the time. I was told that I was smart enough to handle it. It was a compliment, right? To my 12-year-old brain, it seemed like the only option was to listen to my elders’ advice. After all, my brother took this many advanced classes and so did my friends, and I felt like I had to keep up with them. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of my brainwashing. Doing any less than expected wasn’t my best – it was disappointing to my teachers and family and embarrassed me when I compared myself to my peers. From that point forward, I was officially trained to hold myself to a new standard. Always add more advanced classes if possible. Always do my homework no matter what. Always get ‘A’s. I was trained to believe that this is what is necessary to get into a “good” school and to be successful. This was the map that would supposedly allow me to fulfill my potential. Despite my strict adherence to the program, I lacked the contentment I presumed it would bring me.


Fast forward to today, five years later, and I am struggling with this mentality of perfection that was drilled into my head. Three AP classes, one IB class, hours of homework each night – and for what? A grade in StudentVUE that will supposedly get me into the college of my dreams? If I wasn’t so worried about deviating from my designated education plan, I would surrender many of my academic responsibilities in a heartbeat for the spare time to just experience my youth. Unfortunately, though, so many students, including myself, have been lured into the cycle of academic competition and are now stuck in it. Are you doing more than your peers? Are you keeping up? How many APs can you cram into your schedule? Years ago, students were expected to take just one or two AP classes. Now, taking two puts you behind. Tackling three to four AP classes with straight ‘A’s puts you on track. When did this become the case? It seems that the people who are setting these standards for America’s youth didn’t have the same struggles today’s teens have. According to IvyWise, a group of educational consultants that specialize in college admissions, in 2007 Duke University had an acceptance rate of 21%. By 2018, it had been cut down to nearly a third of that, 8%. The same trend was seen in other schools, including University of Michigan, Georgetown University, New York University, and Williams College. Students are expected to do more than ever before to get accepted and to stand out among their peers – and the negative effects are beginning to show through their mental states.


Since society taught me that I need to challenge myself and get perfect grades in order to be successful later in life, my mind has been programmed to think anything less is unacceptable. This mentality is what has caused so many teenagers to develop severe stress and anxiety. Still, each and every weekday we trudge into school at seven o’clock with bags under our eyes and our hefty backpacks slung over our shoulders like lambs to the slaughter. Is this the new face of our country’s youth? Our community’s education standards have exceeded the healthy limit for students. People don’t realize that pushing students past their limit isn’t doing anyone any favors. High schoolers become discouraged and burnt out before they even hit the workforce. Everyone loses in this situation.


If I were able to single-handedly change the perception of education in our world, I would have done it long ago. It’s impossible to do alone. We need to make a change, and it is going to take many people – teachers, parents, and students alike. We need to tell incoming high schoolers that success isn’t solely defined by a letter grade and an Ivy League college degree. We need to show high schoolers that success can stem from different fields – many of which can be achieved without a degree or a perfect 4.0. 


What if we challenge students to think of their life as more than just how their high school years play out? What if we give students the opportunity to ponder the possibility of exploring careers that don’t require a college degree? What if we encourage teens to make their own educational plan based on what they think they can handle, not what they’re told they can handle? Altering society’s education expectations will be loads of work, but if accomplished, will be worth it. Wouldn’t it be better to see incoming generations of teens spending their youth laughing, smiling, and enjoying learning rather than being plagued by heavy backpacks, late night
studying, aching muscles, and stress? 

The author's comments:

I wrote this piece in my junior year of high school during a very stressful period of time. I still stand by these opinions and still strongly believe we need education reform. I'm hoping that through my piece, other students will be able to see how unhealthy the current school system standards and expectations are.

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