Written By: Ben Rapaport
I am attaining five hours of sleep each night, I often unintentionally skip meals because I lack the time to cook, and the stress of my schedule is beginning to affect my physical health. I take too many advanced classes, I am in too many extracurriculars, but I would never consider dropping a single course, sport, or college night class– this intense academic path that I and many other students at Newport Harbor have chosen to take is not only encouraged by the American education system but is required. We are being forced to trade in our youth by working endlessly for our future.
College admissions are becoming increasingly competitive. With many more students acknowledging the benefits of obtaining a college degree, acceptance rates at ranked universities are plummeting. About 80 percent of all ranked universities in America accept less than half of their applicants, and while there are community colleges and lower-tier universities, many American students feel an unparalleled pressure to be accepted into the highest-ranked colleges America has to offer. So, how does one get in?
Good grades simply do not cut it anymore and are inherently expected. Test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, must reach the highest percentiles. Sports, clubs, arts, community involvement, internships… the list is endless because the criterias are endless. The work is endless. The stress is endless.
Educators and politicians have combated this by telling students that attending the best colleges is not necessary. That’s their answer. Stop trying so hard. I refuse to even grant that pathetic excuse of a response with a paragraph.
The burden that high school work has become is a product of a failing education system– a system built upon extreme competition and a centuries-old method of teaching and testing. A system that encourages perfectionism. A system that is detrimental to my health and others.
Suicide and depression rates among our generation (Generation Z or the Post-Millenials) have skyrocketed in recent years. A report from the American Journal of Medicine revealed that in 2017, there was a 47 percent increase in suicides among teenagers ages 15-19 than in the year 2000. Forty-seven percent.
We all remember the tragic death of the Corona Del Mar High School student over a year ago, Patrick Turner, a 16-year-old baseball and football player and an A and B student. He loved to ski, cook, fish, and play videogames. The academic stress he was put under ultimately led him to take his own life. Turner left notes of the great amount of pressure he endured, calling for a much-needed change.
How many must die? How many of us will be pushed to our limits before our educators turn their heads and acknowledge the pain that many of us experience daily? They will go on strike for their salaries, they will protest for their careers, but why not give the students some consideration? How about we– the human beings who are affected by this perfectionism-inflicted epidemic of anxiety and depression– take a stand and voice our suffering?
I fear this issue will only worsen before it improves, as many are too uncomfortable to speak about. It is the function of our entire society after all– school, college degree, job, retire, die– but not always in that order, evidently. Change is needed. If they refuse to help our anguished generation, then we are going to need to help ourselves.
We all have a voice. Speak with authority figures in your district, write to your elected officials, start petitions and blogs; anything you can do to start a conversation can make a world of difference.
It’s time that we stop blaming hard-working students for their stress. It’s time that we start blaming the rigid system they are forced to work in. It’s time for a change.