The push to prepare our children for higher education and college admission could mean that stress rather than learning is the primary product of our educational system.
Student: “Why do I need to learn this?”
Teacher: “Because it will be on the test.”
So goes the dialogue as grades rather than learning become the goal of education. Teachers feel compelled to “teach to the test” while kids focus on doing whatever it takes to look good on a college application.
The documentary film “The Race to Nowhere” was screened by 150 educators, parents and students Friday night at Anne Arundel Community College. The film is advertised as revealing “the dark side of America’s achievement culture” and suggests that students of all ages are stressed beyond their breaking points by pressure to achieve. The badge of achievement has become a high GPA and a busy schedule. Happiness is secondary.
Kids feel pressure because they want to make their parents proud, their teachers happy and get into college. Multiple AP classes, three to six hours of homework each night, sports and outside activities have replaced childhood - and important developmental tasks and family life.
The stress results in negative symptoms and behaviors: physical illness, lack of sleep, eating disorders, risky behaviors, depression and anxiety, and even suicide. School counselors are seeing more and more students in their offices suffering from stress-related concerns according to Bonnie Habicht, guidance counselor at
Some teachers feel stuck as their motivation for and love of teaching is compromised by the larger demand for student achievement on standardized tests. Many believe their jobs are on the line. Parents are implicated as well because they want the best for their kids, and want them to get into “the best” schools. And so they push. At the same time, parents are dismayed as they watch their kids become overwhelmed.
How do our local communities respond? An AACC professor pointed out that “the best schools” should include the community college whose classes are comparatively small with excellent educators. A parent (and the film) rejected the notion that all students should be placed in cookie cutter images as though all students are the same.
Unique skills, giftedness in music and other aspects of the arts, and creativity are equally valuable indicators of a successful individual.
Nick Silvestri, resource school psychologist at Anne Arundel County Public Schools indicates that teaching resiliency and coping in the face of academic rigor is paramount for our students. Their website offers helpful resources.
STAR program emphasizes resilience in its offerings ( April 8-11). Clergy in The Severna Park Area Ministry Group recently named youth and the evidence of stress in their lives as an area of focus in their cooperative community outreach.
Through awareness and dialogue like this we, as a community, may be empowered to facilitate change where necessary.
Comments and discussion are a welcome response to this concern. How do you respond?