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Future Orientation In America

In April of 1984, Robert Kohls wrote the “Values Americans Live By.” In the essay he took a stand on the importance of future orientation in America. Kohls stated, “Even a happy present goes largely unnoticed because, happy as it may be, Americans have traditionally been hopeful that the future would bring greater happiness. Almost all energy is directed towards realizing that better future.” This statement highlights that Americans are always striving to make everything better, and to plan out their futures early. Sometimes planning out what will happen next leads to stress, especially in young people. In the composition written by Robert Kohls he focuses on the importance of future orientation. Future orientation in American society is shown through student’s ambition to do well and plan ahead. Results of this desire to succeed have led to stress among many college and high school students. Unfortunately, the students relieve that stress by abusing drugs, leading to even bigger problems such as mental illness and depression.
Beginning as early as the age of four, children around America are asked the same question by their elders: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This question lights the spark that gets kids thinking about how they want to plan out their futures. Goals develop, and so does the determination to attain them. Parents and their children feel receiving a college education is vital, with 84 percent of students believing there will be "few or no" career opportunities if they don’t complete some form of higher education (Koebler). The thought of not having a career as an adult adds to stress on kids. The thought of being poor one day because they couldn’t make it into college is in the back of every pupil’s mind. Many people are beginning to wonder, is seventh grade the new tenth grade? With kids taking AP courses in middle school, and already knowing their major by eighth grade, it’s starting to look that way. In Florida, Jeb Bush passed an act requiring middle schools to offer at least one high school level course, the act also forces middle-schoolers to pick a “major” or “intended career” (Flannery). States like Florida, pushing their kids to have a goal isn’t seen as a bad thing...at least not in the eyes of a college admittance office. But looking at it from the view of a caring parent, or even the student, easily foreshadows how stressful planning too far ahead can be. A question that arises in most parents’ thoughts while dealing with this topic is, why are we staring so early? With middle school test scores sagging, colleges complaining about remediation rates... and state and national policymakers worried about job readiness and global competitiveness, academic rigor is in (Flannery). Some people think eighth grade is too late. The directors of the ACT’s (American College Testing) such as Cynthia Schmeiser stated that eighth grade is definitely too late to begin planning for college. What those directors don’t realize is how much stress “starting early” puts on a thirteen year old. I understand that kids should have goals, and should want to have a bright future, but that should come later in their high school years. Middle school is the time for kids to figure out who they are, and to enjoy themselves. Not the time to worry about what school they’re going to attend five years in the future, and what requirements they have to meet to get there.
It may seem far-fetched that drug and alcohol use is a direct result of teens stress while planning for and attending college; but it’s not. About 73 percent of teens say that school stress is the primary reason for drug use (Moré). Every day high school students are faced with having to mold themselves into what their dream college wants them to be. I agree that students should have to have certain attributes to go to prestigious colleges, but no one’s perfect. That is what college admittance offices don’t see. Drug use is a rising issue, and the fact that it could be lowered if colleges slightly alter their standards is important to realize. Nearly half of America's 5.4 million full-time college students abuse drugs or drink alcohol on binges at least once a month (Leinwand). These students, already in college, must maintain the things they did to get into the schools they are attending. This is where the drug use comes from. The abuse of prescription drugs and marijuana has increased dramatically since the 1990s. Student use of marijuana has more than doubled, from 1.9% in 1993 to 4% in 2005 (Leinwand). Cocaine and heroine use jumped from 5.4% in 1993 to 8.2% in 2005 (Leinwand). These numbers are scary. Most students that make up these numbers answered in surveys that they do drugs to relieve stress and school related issues. This can be stopped. Colleges haven’t even taken action for the problems they endorsed. School administrators have not done enough to curtail drug and alcohol abuse on campus. Two thirds of teachers say students should stop it themselves, says John Califano, head of CASA (Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse). It is evident that some one needs to make a change in this situation, that some one being the colleges in America. They either need to change their admittance polices, or take responsibility for their students reliance on drugs because of stress.
With drug abuse, comes depression and mental illness. Cases of psychological problems have increased with drug abuse. By the time teens reach age eighteen; one in five will have had at least one diagnosable bout of clinical depression. Middle school is only a preview of the struggles teens will face in college and high school (Aubrey). These kids shouldn’t have to face depression because they try so hard to be perfect in school. More cases of severe mental illness are being reported among college students than a decade ago, as more young people with mental health issues tackle a post-secondary education (Mozes). Post-secondary education, referring to college, is a direct reason for increase in depression and mental issues. The idea students have in their head, that they can’t get a well paying job after high school without a degree is also why they feel the need to push themselves beyond their limits. These problems of depression can be intensified by the very nature of going off to college, students may find themselves in a challenging new environment with no one to turn to (Neighmond). Students who are already depressed before entering college are only getting worse. High school leaves kids depressed from over working to get into college. When the students finally get there they have a gray outlook on life and don’t want to go on. Some students are completely unaware that they’re even depressed. Blinded by the stress of schoolwork, one fourth of students go to a doctor for a common cold where they are informed of depression (Neighmond). This problem coincides with the problem of drug abuse. It can only be stopped if colleges help to make a change, or the numbers will only keep going up.
Students in America shouldn’t think it’s wrong to plan out their futures. Having big dreams and being optimistic is great. Things start rolling down hill when students try to push them selves to far. Stress, drug abuse, and depression all come from students pushing themselves too hard. How can it be stopped? Colleges of America need to make a change, before matters get worse.





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