Overwhelming Pressure on High School Students



Naomi Boodhoo, Staff Writer

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As AP test season comes to a tumultuous close, many students have been victims of the intense pressure, either from multiple exams in a day or consecutive exams, or simply the rush in perfecting the skills or memorizing the curriculum required to attain a coveted five. Today, many parents and teachers immerse themselves in their children’s academic experience in order to guide them to what they believe to be the most effective pathway to success, even going to such lengths to send babies and toddlers to “elite preschools.” However, these intransigent supervisors tend to believe that attending an Ivy League school to get a doctorate degree in a scientific or mathematical field is the only measure of success in life. Even though they think they are acting to benefit their children’s future, this strategy is very detrimental because students are rendered unable to follow their passions and are likely to develop mental illnesses from their skewed sense of reality and priority.

These protective parents aren’t setting their kids up for career or financial failure, though. Christopher Ingraham’s article on the Washington Post, “This chart shows how much more Ivy League grads make than you,” demonstrates that Ivy League graduates enjoy a salary of over $70,000 after graduation, while the national median sits much closer to $34,000. But money can’t buy happiness–it is imperative to consider the individual’s content with their job. Often, students are not passionate about the endeavors they are pushed to pursue. According to Psychology Today’s article, “How Schools Thwart Passions,” by Peter Gray, the push for stronger scores on standardized testing has led to more time in school, and more time being devoted to homework outside of school. This translates into the crushing fact that students enduring rigorous regimes of schoolwork simply don’t have time or energy to channel into exploring different subjects and fields or even learning about themselves. Ultimately, students are unable to find their passions before they reach adulthood, often incapable of realizing that they deserve to devote their lives to whatever it is that will fulfill their dreams and content their heart, whether that’s astronomy, music, or botany.

But the implications of this lack of control are unfortunately grave. Students find their worth measured by their test scores and college admissions, so when the rare instance comes around that they do fail a test, or get sub-par scores on the SAT, they see this as themselves simply not being enough. This has led to a frightening correlation between mental illness–including depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and changes in eating–and stress from demanding classes, according to Chris Iliades’s article, “Stress May Trigger Mental Illness and Depression in Teens.” Even the smartest prodigies can become dangerously impetuous when faced with such a let-down. Just recently, in the South Indian state of Telegana, nineteen students have been reported to have killed themselves when an exam’s results were incorrectly reported, meaning students found themselves with impossibly low scores. Even though these scores are working to be resolved, nineteen bright young minds have been lost to forever because of this incident.

Clearly, the attitude fostered toward academic achievement must be shifted in order to maintain both success and content. One solution could be for schools to hold mandatory seminars for new parents in order to explain the importance of following passions and mental health and demonstrate what toxic parenting looks like. We must erase the image from students’ minds as school being a ferocious beast they must battle against, and instead, facilitate the idea that school can help them find their passions and even provide a resource for mental health.