As a student, I have experienced most, if not all, of the stressors thrusted upon me to be the best candidate possible to succeed. It starts young. We’re beginning to scare the little ones with, “high school is going to be much harder, so you better start now,” and, “if you don’t do well now, you won’t get into a good college,” and, “when you’re in college, you’re completely on your own.” We’ve been convinced that the best student is the one who gets straight A’s in the hardest of classes, impressive internships with prestigious institutions, and impeccable work experience. But you also can’t forget to get involved in school events, clubs, and organizations. No pressure, right?
Nowadays, all that matters is what’s on that resume, and what’s on that grade report. We’ve turned an appreciation for higher education and a passion for learning into a competition of who can be the most successful in the end. We’ve even defined success from what used to be everyone’s own individual goals in life into a universal idea of making the most money. We praise the ones who lose nights of sleep perfecting their papers and projects, yet we teach in some of those very same classes that sleep can be one of the most vital things for our health. We scold those who decide to take only some higher level classes instead of all those offered because they’re not meeting the standard of what a good student is. In response to a student suicide a few weeks ago in Palo Alto, Superintendent of the Piedmont Unified School District Constance Hubbard writes in an article entitled “Students Need to Know They are Valued for Who They Are” that the students of this time have definitely been forced under the most pressure given to be the most successful.
We have come to a time where the third leading cause of death for teens and the second leading cause of death for college-students is suicide according to the Jason Foundation, one of the nation’s leading non-profit, clinically-based organizations in the prevention of youth suicide as well as awareness. Parents are pushing their kids past the brink all because of the innocent, whole-hearted wish for their children to have better lives than they did. Students are beginning to believe that only top scores and prestigious school acceptances will win their parents’ love. High schoolers are doing everything in their power to get the best GPA, just for the approval of university admissions staffs whom they will never meet. Sixth graders are crying when their grades aren’t all A’s on each assignment because that’s what they believe will get them into a good college, an institution they know nothing about. And yet, people still fail to realize what is wrong. We are losing a bit of our humanity each and every day when we lose another student who could no longer bear the crushing pressure of attempting to be what is deemed successful. A little bit more of our humanity dissipates when another teenager pulls a three-day long all-nighter, and when another child cries from the red marks on their tests.
We fail to realize that the idea of what is successful is subjective to each individual. Our job as a community of parents, teachers, and school staff, etc., is not to add on to the stress, but to support, guide and encourage students to try their best, not to be the best. They need to enjoy learning, not fear going to class because of the quiz they didn’t have time to study for the night before after finally finishing other homework. Our community needs to give them time to forget about all the stress and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. We cannot give up on the students of today, but that doesn’t mean we should expect them to fend for themselves in a chaotic sea of distress.