“High School – Where Self Esteem, Innocence And Dreams Wither Away.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 8 percent of teens in the U.S. suffer from some form of diagnosed anxiety condition. Elevated stress, social media, peer pressure, and divorce, etc., have been cited as some of the sources of anxiety in teens.
However, the main factor is the fact that the school system is now more challenging and the stakes involved are much higher.
Expectations of high performance now surround sports and school and this typically leads to increased stress and subsequent anxiety disorders. The best universities in the country are constantly increasing the selectivity criteria as well as costs with each passing year; this adds pressure on students to perform or perish.
“Stress caused by the school system today begins in kindergarten, converts joyful play into competitive activities/sport, makes the learning process a struggle for excellence, turns acts of charity into resume needs, and converts friends into social network connections.”
The School System and Increased Anxiety
Pressure and competition have increased on students over the past few decades due to the school system. There is an inherent belief that only some classes are the ‘correct’ ones to go for, and getting the ‘proper’ grade in such courses will only increase the potential of gaining admission to the ‘right’ university or college.
It may be noted that entry requirements to several of these ‘right’ schools are rigid and often unattainable. Students now have to take the challenge of taking a demanding class to be able to get a better, higher GPA so as to be able to get admission to such ‘right’ schools.’
Denial of admission to these institutions can often cause students to perceive it as a personal failure. This can then lead to increased anxiety towards better performance and more study time.
The increased levels of testing, such as SAT, IB, SAT Subject tests, ACT, PSAT, and AP exams, etc., that teenagers of today have to undergo also contribute towards increased anxiety and stress in students.
Additionally, commitment of time between sports, study, family chores, and social life, etc., poses a difficult task to students who are often unable to deal with the fine act of balancing school-life.
The cost of university education and the uncertainty of employment in the future is another thing that fuels anxiety in students.
What is wrong with the anxiety-fueling school system?
The school system is fixated to a narrow definition of success that involves ranking, standardized testing, competition, and comparison. Many students struggle every day, and often fail, to attend classes, show up for tests and exams, and/or hand-in varied assignments.
A large percentage of students who cannot live up to the high expectations of the school system tend to drop out or end up losing their teenage years to anxiety, stress, or other mental ailments.
- The school system has increased focus on academic results with a very constricted view of success and a single approach for all, thereby negating individuality.
- There is excess comparison between children, excessive competition, and excessive testing.
- The complete school system is designed to achieve better results instead of making children love the process of education and learning. This subsequently results in a pressure hierarchy with children at the bottom.
Only a revolutionary reform marked by broadening the curriculum, expanding the ideas of success, valuing all aspects of kids, and measuring non-cognitive skills, etc., can improve the school system and help reduce anxiety in students.
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