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Future Orientation

What do we value as Americans? In general, American ethics are the same. One of these values is of future orientation. Americans not only value the future, they value their future. Americans are obsessed with the promise of the future as well as the improvements the future will bring. But just as Americans excitedly wait for the future, they worry about what it holds for themselves and with that, they do what they can to ensure their future is as bright as it can possibly be. In “Values Americans Live By,” L. Robert Kohls says, “Even a happy present goes largely unnoticed because, happy as it may be, Americans have traditionally been hopeful that the future would bring even greater happiness” (Kohls.) I agree with Mr. Kohls that future orientation is very important to Americans and I maintain it is important to be prepared, but I also believe that the value has been made too crucial. The value of future orientation in America’s society today is evident within our schools and the students across the country competing with each other and striving for success.

School stress is an issue found in students of all ages across the country. It can start in students as young as kids at the elementary school level. In an article written in the magazine, Today’s Parent, a young boy of just eight became stressed out about school and started to resent going to class because he didn’t understand what was being taught in class. Upset and stressed out, he started to believe he was stupid and something must be wrong with him. (“I don't wanna go to school today: when going to class stresses kids out.”) If a student isn’t understanding a teachers lessons in school, the kid, more times than not, becomes stressed out and worries that he can’t keep up with the other students. Even at ages as young as eight, kids are concerned with doing well for their futures.

Teenagers show the strongest symptoms of stress. Five percent to ten percent of teens at any one time suffer from depression which can lead to suicide in about 15 percent of those teenagers if not treated properly. (“Stess and Drug Abuse.”) There are many reasons for this depression in teens; perfectionism in school is one of them. (Arenofsky.) Perfectionism can pertain to different things, but the one to be focused on is perfectionism of school grades and work. But the worrying doesn’t stop there. Since we are told that colleges look at everything, we start to think about all of the things we need to do to get into college aside from just getting good grades. (Rogers.) These extracurricular activities include, sports, clubs, leadership programs, volunteering and having a part-time job. All of these responsibilities only add to the stress.Research shows that teen suicide due to stress is the third leading cause of death among young adults and adolescents 15 to 24 years of age. (“Life on the Highway.”)

The scholastic competition in America in this day and age in incredibly high, especially at the college level. In high school, student's are constantly forced to worry about college; making sure one is prepared, studying hard, and participating in sports and extracurriculars. Student's are rushed into figuring out what they're going to do for the rest of their life. We're pressured into trying to get into the best colleges possible, causing immense amounts of stress at such a young age. In an attempt to keep up with the competition, student's are constantly busy which brings up the question, when do they have the time to be a kid?

The reason the issue of student suicide has really become serious in colleges is because students are starting to expect more from themselves. Not to mention, in college, the competition is higher than you could imagine. Elite schools especially struggle with student suicide. According to an article about student suicide, there is an "increased fragility of students and apparent higher incidence of depression and serious mental illness" (Gose.) The article also focuses on elite schools where the competition is, no doubt, even higher than that in a different college. Students feel weighed down by poor grades and the sense that they need to do something great with their life, especially when they get a high education like the ones provided by elite schools. Harvard has averaged one suicide per year in the past ten years in their students. Many elite schools, such as Harvard, are taking steps to prevent depression and suicide in their students by hiring more psychologists, creating support networks, and even providing telephone hotlines.

Furthermore, brain research now shows that people who are exposed to stress are more likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs. According to an article on the connection of stress and drug abuse, stress can cause changes in the brain similar to changes caused by addictive drugs. Because of this, some people who experience stress might be more subject to drug abuse, addiction, or relapse. (“Stress and Drug Abuse.”) There are steps you can take to manage stress. It’s important for people who are stressed to remember tips such as to take care of oneself, focus, and move on.

The values of people in American society range from a variety of things. Future orientation, or the image individuals have of the future, is one of these values. Although I believe planning for the future and working hard is important, I don’t think it should be so crucial that it becomes a problem of stress for students. Schools need to offer more help and support for students dealing with stress and stress related illnesses.Student’s in this day and age are very focused on success and competing with each other. This, often times, leads to stress which can start an offset of behaviors such as depression, drug-use and even suicide. In schools, where such students can be found, shows just how much American’s value the future.





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