I shared an article yesterday written by Carolyn Walworth, a Palo Alto High junior. Something that wasn’t really covered in the article (but which is completely relevant to the current situation) is that there have been a number of student suicides in the Palo Alto area over the past few years. When teens start feeling like their only recourse is to jump in front of trains, we need stop to rethink what we, as a society, are doing to our students. Carolyn’s article shared her despair with the pressure of excessive homework (even during finals week when teachers are supposed to lay off homework) and the academic bullying towards students in the “dumb” math lane or the “late” readers (compared to the “early” readers).
HUNDREDS of people have commented on Carolyn’s poignant article, but few offered viable solutions.
We’ll never be able to stop people from labeling the various groups of students because we do need to group students with similar skills together in order to effectively teach them. Period. HOWEVER, the excessive homework part of the equation needs to be addressed. Requiring students to take annotated notes for EVERY PARAGRAPH of EVERY CHAPTER is a waste of time Seriously. Homework should engage the student in further learning — key word: ENGAGE. Rote, meaningless busy work contributes to late nights, lack of sleep, and too much stress.
Did you know that selective colleges expect students to take the most challenging courses their high schools offer? So when high schools offer dozens of AP courses, and students are pressured to take 5 or 6 per year, that sets precedent for all students to take at least that many to compete for admission to highly-ranked colleges. BUT, your child might have a better chance of getting into top colleges by going to a high school that offers just a few AP classes or limits the number of AP classes a student can take. This can STOP the insane spiral of students on autopilot just to keep up with the Joneses. Remember, colleges consider what your child does based on what is available to them at their school, which makes this a SCHOOL ISSUE.
So, what can you do?
Naturally, you can’t enroll your kid in the worst public school in the state and expect them to get into Stanford. Colleges are looking for students who are engaged and curious, not students who are burnt out and chasing the illusion of a college degree at a fancy schmancy institution. Students should engage in doing a project that they’re passionate about — something they want to do because it’s interesting and fun. Then, the project will give them talking points on their admissions essays and in their interviews, and most importantly, they’ll STAND OUT AMONG THEIR PEERS without taking 16 AP classes or becoming another incredibly sad statistic.