You were probably hesitant to even bother reading this, because the last thing you want to hear is the opinions of a whiny high school student.
Before actually writing this, while trying to figure out how exactly to phrase this, I tried looking at both sides of this to sound less biased. But I soon realized that the cons of high school tipped the balance over. I am only human and all humans, are biased.
The modern world is quickly becoming a bigger and bigger competition. Who has a higher payroll? More followers? More attractive? Better college? Higher GPA? The comparing factor of our survival is now subconsciously an essential part of our mindset in this society, and it’s taking down the youth with it.
Being the stereotypical nerdy goody-goody Asian kid, growing up I actually genuinely enjoyed school. I enjoy learning, meeting people, seeing my friends, being able to challenge myself academically, and I even loved the homework that was given to me. Of course, things took a 180 degree turn the day freshman year started.
For one, being in an advanced/honors english and history program made me realized how much individuality the “top students” lacks. We’re all the same race. We all come from the same social class. We all aim for the same things, an acceptance letter from an UC school and a successful job as a lawyer, doctor, or engineer. And we’re doing the same things to get there: AP classes, multiple extracurricular activities, abundant of community service projects…
Because of this lack of individuality, high school just seems like an insufferable competition where students step on one another to get to the top. We lack a personality, or an uniqueness that makes us, us. Everything we do seems like it’s for a number on the transcript, or another line in the section under “accomplishments” on college applications. Some students use their friend to get better grades to the point where it’s not “work together” but rather “use another”. It seems like no one is genuinely passionate about something anymore, no one cares about climate change, no one cares about the tragedies in third world countries, no one cares about poor labor conditions, no one even cares about Monet’s paintings. The world’s culture and awareness is collapsing, and it appears that we, the future, are mostly at fault.
Of course, the other flaws of high school doesn’t only lie in the lack of individuality, though it is a contributing factor. Pressured by our peers, parents, teachers, and our goals, we often juggle many things at once to get to where we want. However, teachers are having trouble understanding that we have things to do outside of school, and even outside of extracurricular activities, like interacting with people, bonding with our family, do housework, or some even have jobs. This year, I found it so difficult to juggle all my activities AND do an expected five to six hours of homework a night after a long day. Teenagers are expected to have a 8 hours of sleep per night, but if I were to do my homework, do the extracurricular activities that colleges expect from me, eat, do housework, and have even 30 minutes of free time, I would only have 5 hours of sleep at most, which is something I end up doing on almost a daily basis these past years. To some, even 5 hours of sleep is considered a lot. Some students only show up at school with 2 or 3 hours of sleep. Under these conditions, it’s not difficult to understand why most teens are suffering from mental illness and not physically healthy. In fact, this past year, under the constant stress and pressure, I found myself going through depression with contemplations of suicide and constant anxiety attacks regarding school. These characteristics are becoming so common among young adults that when a student mentions anxiety caused by school, it is actually considered normal.
I understand that there’s always the option of giving up on getting good grades in school or give up any voluntary activities, but the thing, is I NEED to get into a good college. To have a greater chance of getting a good job, providing for my family, and make them proud, I have to push myself to become what I can’t handle. I need to work extra hard because the system is becoming more and more competitive. And if I give up all of the sudden, all my hard work all these years will go to waste. Why must the dream of providing a better lifestyle for others be so difficult to fulfill?
Of course, I know the teachers are also stressed from the responsibility of grading our work. However, they must understand that while they have the option to just stop and take a break from grading for awhile and come back to it. Or even in the worst case scenario, if they get fired, they can always find a new job. Unfortunately, as for students, if we stop, we will quickly receive bad grades and our future is at the hands of our grades. It is hard for us to relax sometimes without having any dramatic consequences.
In addition, being forced to take classes that I don’t find genuinely helpful for me to be who I want to be kills me. Since middle school, I don’t see how any more useful can subjects like English can be to me. Though I understand the value of knowing proper english, having the ability to do semi-complex math, and knowing the logic behind the sciences, and understanding the world’s past, I don’t see how the amount of depth we’re shoved into memorizing is going to contribute to our future. I mean, how many of us are going to grow up to be historians or becoming an expert at Shakespeare? Even if we are, colleges classes are for developing people towards those careers, and teens who have no interest in such fields should not have to sit through such torture. For this reason, I found that electives are more useful towards our future than mandatory core classes. The languages that we learn can be useful to almost any field and the skills that WE select to learn will actually help us have a wider knowledge of what we want to do. But the fact of being forced to sit through classes we’re forced to take due to some state standards is going to eat me alive. On the bright side, we know how to solve an equation using the quadratic formula, but the sad thing is, most of us still don’t know how mortgages works, how to file taxes, or have a clear understanding of how to handle most things in the adult life.
The tests that we take in certain classes are no longer used to test our knowledge, but rather our memorization. Let’s be honest, knowing a specific theorem or who the 31st president of the United States was is something that we will forget the second the year end. Having tests and quizzes regarding small specific things rather than the big picture shows that it’s about memorization and grades as in a letter or number rather than actual knowledge. Even the smartests honors kids cheat on tests, in fact they’re known to cheat the most. This only shows how rather than making the students value knowledge and learning, the school system is only caring about grades and using it as a way to define their worth.
Long story short, mostly motivated by my need to succeed in life in addition to the stress and pressure from teachers and parents, I found myself being destroyed by high school. I’m not happy the way I am, I’m not getting sleep, I’m don’t feel unique, I don’t feel confident, I’m no longer enthusiastic about anything. I don’t see myself growing from the information I’m learning. I can’t find myself having the ability, emotionally or physically, to handle high school to the greatest extent possible. In that system, I was feeling like my worth was only defined by grades.
And I know I am worth more than a generated number or letter.
I am a human being. I am capable of doing great things. I have the ability to succeed, even if the subjects in school doesn’t say so. Because those subjects and this system do not define me as a person.
All the love.
Adam Katz Sinding (Featured image)