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What is an Honor Student? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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We are in school to learn lessons, so let me teach you one, as you are meant to be good at this. It is the definition not only of what an honor student is but what it means to be an honor student today.

It makes sense to me, when investigating the world of honors classes and honor students, to take a look at the organization that commends those very souls who challenge their minds and their schedules, namely the National Honor Society (NHS).

Acquiring higher than a 3.5 GPA and earning the 12 points mandatory for induction, I am fortunate to be a member of the society myself. Through the process, I have seen many inspiring moments as well as ones that would surely dishearten any who witnessed the act.

If I had a nickel for every faked signature on an “NHS Tutoring Form,” I wouldn't need to put NHS on my college application because there would be no need to go. I can honestly say that all my signatures were genuine. Otherwise, my conscience would not have allowed me to accept my fancy pin and membership card. The idea of dishonoring the code of the National Honor Society is pretty ironic. Yet many of our ­fellow students use their intelligence to cheat the system. You may read this and wonder why any ­supposedly smart student would do this, or you may understand because you too have felt tempted. For those who don't know, I have one word: pressure.

The amount of pressure on high school students these days is ridiculous. When my mother attended my high school in the late 1970s, she had never heard of the ACT. I guarantee every student today has heard a lot about the ACT, even foreign ­exchange students. It's insane how much academics have changed in 30 years. Then, no one put much emphasis on GPA, ACT score, or extracurricular activities. And if you did, you would get in anywhere you wanted. The evolution of academic intensity has been accelerating at an unmanageable pace.

Academic pressure on teenagers has existed for many years, but my class has even more stresses. We have matured during what will later be called The Great Recession, and that is something no pushy parent or harsh teacher will understand.

We have all heard the following innumerable times the past few years: “Well, the economy is bad right now.” When we ask why so many companies and families are going bankrupt, this is the answer. When we ask why we can't go out to eat as often, this is the answer. When we ask why we can't go on a family vacation this year, sadly this is still the answer. Living in a society that is overcome by this mindset has a bigger impact on students than you might think. Many of us have had to deal with a parent losing his or her job. I have not, but I have a worried mother, 'nough said.

We have learned that in the job market right now, a four-year college degree is not enough to land you a position. Only the résumés listing the most experience, greatest level of extracurricular involvement, and degrees from the most prestigious universities will be considered. As a result, we are told not that we need to “go to college,” but that we need to “go to a good college.” This is the reason NHS candidates are using their gift of intelligence to cheat – and get away with it.

Let's look at the method behind the madness. It's beaten into our heads that how well you do in ­freshman year English class can affect where you go to college, where you go to college affects whether or not you get a job, and if you cannot get a job, your life will be miserable. Basically, do your English homework or you will end up as one of the homeless people we see on the corners in downtown Chicago.

Before the added economic pressures, the definition of an honor student was someone who cared about schoolwork enough to want to take an honors class or was simply smart enough to want the challenge. Now parents push us to take weighted classes even if we aren't interested in the subject. But it's okay because we're smart and we can handle it, right?

In truth, handling stress is extremely difficult. We are driven by pressure and fear for our futures. This leads some of us to cheat, or use our brains to find the easiest way with the result that we probably don't get a lot out of the hard classes we take or the clubs we join.

The sad truth is that (like many other things in America) the honors system is corrupt. Merriam Webster's definition of honor is “good name or public esteem,” and sadly I believe that holds true here. I feel that many students who take honors classes don't take them to become academically enriched. We do it because it will look good on a college application. We play competitive sports because we want to seem well rounded. We study hard because we understand it will lead us to a better life. And that's all honor students really want. We dream of the day when we can sit in our larger-than-average house, kiss our loving family good-night, put our feet up, watch our big-screen TV and think, Thank God I did my freshman English homework.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

RedDaisy said...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 7:20 pm
While I am an honor student, nobody has ever mentioned this program at school to me. I found out about it myself a few months back. And I don't really care if I get invited in or not. In fact I don't even want to join. To much stress that I know I can't handle, which in turn leads to worrying my unemployed dad and it also means another expense for my over-working mother. They tell me to work hard so I can get the economical help I need. And I do that and it's okay. But will it be okay once I'm... (more »)
 
aem312 said...
Jan. 30, 2012 at 3:19 pm
NHS didn't invite me to their "society" even though I met all of their requirements while many others got invited that did not. in my school the system is definitely flawed to say the least. I do agree with you though, right now I'm taking honors chem even though I don't like chemistry at all. It's all about what will get you into a good college.
 
Vespa said...
May 22, 2011 at 12:55 am
While I have never been in NHS (nor have I really had the desire to be in it), I do agree with some of the points you make. Mainly the ones about students' motivation behind working hard and participating in various extracurricular activities. The school system has warped its students minds so that very few people join a club without thinking "How will this look on my resume?" If you have time, I think you might be interested in a piece I wrote called "What Happened to Childhood", which centers ... (more »)
 
HorseLover said...
May 19, 2011 at 6:33 am
I was just inducted into National Junior Honor Society, and it's amazing how many people think they're entilted to things like this! In my HONORS math class, everyone is currently complaining because they did poorly on two tests, so they might have a B. Yes, a B. The current most common comment about math class is, "I've never had a B in math class! I  can't have a B now!" In my opinion, you earn your real grade, and don't cheat to get it.
 
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