Our latest article comes from Michael Stern, a student at Menlo School in Atherton, California.
Thank you, Michael
The Challenge Success Team
I recently watched Race To Nowhere, a documentary that illuminates the problems in our education system.
The documentary speaks of students who are sleep-deprived, unhealthy, and largely unhappy. Kids are under pressure to juggle unreasonable demands of academics and extracurriculars. It also talks about a disturbingly high suicide rate. This leads to an environment in which we only care about grades and college admission instead of learning.
These problems epitomize our schools.
To an observer, everything might seem fine, but that’s an illusion. When you experience these problems and see your classmates go through the same thing, it’s easier to understand what’s really going on. If you ask someone how they’re doing, they’ll smile and say “Good” simply because that’s what we’ve been taught to do.
Most students know there is a problem. Look around. Do juniors look happy? Do we look like we love to learn? Have you ever been in a class where there hasn’t been a substantial amount of cheating or cutting corners?
But if we want to make a radical change to tackle this problem, there is a chain of command we have to go through. Students report to teachers, who report to the administration, which reports to the Board, which “reports” to the parents.
The parents at private schools (especially those on the Board) have a greater responsibility because as children, we are vulnerable to accepting what they teach us. Children suffer because of their achievement-driven tenets, as evident in student actions. It makes me wonder whether they’re afraid to change. And perhaps people further down the chain are also afraid. I know I don’t want to lose a chance to get into college.
The problem is stoppable. We can eliminate some requirements for graduation to foster a passion-based learning experience, because by the time students get to senior year, many have already lost a joy of learning they won’t regain. They’re not stupid or lazy; they just aren’t engaged.
Lowering the amount of homework would give students more time to find their passions through extracurriculars. But most of all, we need a mindset that will guide all of our actions in the future. And it starts with the parents. Your children are suffering and are victims of a misguided education system. There is no reason that schooling has to be a competition-- the priority has to be with learning and if this issue was tackled, students would be more receptive than most think.