The Ugly Truth: Students Overworked and Overstressed
Experts say teenagers need nine hours of sleep per night, but that means going to bed at 9:30 p.m., and let’s be honest, none of us did that last night. Well, maybe a couple of people. But those few probably woke up at 3 a.m. to do their homework. While many Pace students live well within the Buckhead bubble and school is no more than ten minutes from their houses, there are plenty of students who live far away, which means they have to wake up earlier, giving them even less sleep. (It also means long and boring drives.) Even if you do not roll out of bed until 7 a.m., you probably still have a lot of work to do. Many teachers pride themselves on giving no more than an hour of homework per night. But we take five classes. And play sports. And play instruments. And attend clubs. And drive our siblings to their sports and clubs.
Of course, there are some teachers who are excellent about helping their students manage the homework load. Mr. Owens, for example, understands that students have heavy burdens and lots of time-consuming activities and makes homework, in theory, optional. So the day when you do not get home until 10 p.m., you can omit the work. However, there are upsides and downsides to that approach: some students will do none of their homework and suffer for it, and others will feel the pressure to do all their work regardless of whether or not it is a requirement. (There is probably a gender divide on these approaches…) Or take Mr. Hornor, who rarely requires work except for weekly outlines. The outlines may be a pain sometimes, but it forces students to utilize time-management skills. Then again, most of those outlines get written on Sunday nights, or Monday mornings during free periods. These classes are the exception, not the rule, and even this only offsets some of the other difficulties of high school classes. The question should not be how to manage all of this, as some of our assemblies would suggest, the question should be, “Why are we managing all of this?”
Colleges want a resume — that is why. Because in today’s world, it is not always enough to have OK grades and decent SAT scores and be an average soccer player. Pace does a good job of preparing us for that new world. Pace offers Global Education trips, padding our resumes with the grandeur of service learning and authentic historical education experiences, they encourage an abundance of clubs and activities, giving us the privilege of adding “President of Such-and-Such Club that Met Once the Whole Year” to our list of achievements. That is not to say that these opportunities are not fantastic; the trips are well-run, fun, and highly valuable. Club activities are an important part of the student experience, and Pace would not be the same without the frequent Baking for Breast Cancer bakesales.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that the world that we are growing up in has become a different place. We are not well-rounded people anymore. We are well-pointed people, who have dabbled in everything but still have found our niches. Even I, with no hand-eye coordination, and a horribly slow runner, played some sports at some point before realizing I should stick to debate and writing things. Then again, if everyone is special, is anyone special? Competition is a pretty powerful driving force, and it has created a generation of students who have worked hard to climb to the top. More people are attending college than before. There are also more college graduates who do not have jobs and students who are left unemployed and in debt. Which, especially for today’s high school and college students, is a scary thought. Politics are in shambles and the economy is still teetering on the edge of a double-dip recession. That is not to say that college is not worth it, but it does create fear, which creates more drive, which creates, well, us.
At the same time, when is the last time you sat outside and enjoyed Atlanta’s brilliant sunsets? High school is about the formulation of the individual, not just about being groomed for and getting into college, and with all this pressure, and the lack of time, that can sometimes be hard to do. So, especially for seniors, who are preparing to nervously wait by the mailbox (or inbox) every day, that is something to remember. The friends we have made in high school and the experiences we have gone through, and the days where we decided not to do our homework and to just enjoy life, are part of what is most significant about this experience. That is my advice to juniors, sophomores, and freshmen, too. Yes, AP Biology may be terrifying. But you will be fine. Learn how to balance school and play, dedication and the ability to have just a small amount of self-indulgence.
By Lauren Sukin, Opinion Editor ’12