Pressure In School Is A Contributing Factor To The Downward Spiral Of Students

Pressure In School Is A Contributing Factor To The Downward Spiral Of Students

High school culture is way beyond me.

High school, baby. Do you remember the sweet, sweet smell of cafeteria lunch, kids copying homework in the last .5 seconds before turning it in, all the random people you’ve come across crying in bathroom stalls, and many more (that probably include thrashing around to your 6 a.m. alarm every morning)?

I’ve had friends tell me that high school is where they THRIVED. Supportive teachers, unbreakable friend groups and amazing sporting events and spirit rallies; obviously why wouldn’t you deny you had practically a perfect high school experience? I’ve had graduated friends who admitted that high school was one of the worst points of their life...and they don’t like looking back on it.

Jumping from state to state, I experienced completely different schooling methods and atmospheres. Illinois to Pennsylvania to California, my perspective on academics and schooling changed COMPLETELY when I moved to Cupertino, the heart of the Silicon Valley, my sophomore year. I remember family friends back in Pennsylvania who told me that academics were SO much easier in California, and I would ride swiftly through my three years on a cloud.

Then, I sat on my butt in my first class of the year, World History, and thinking; “Well wow. I’m fucked!!!” Through the years, I watched my classmates descend into true madness, panic attacks after tests, sitting through 8 ½ hours of school with a fever because missing the class would be too awful, and overall, a spike in introverted behaviors, anxiety, and depression...which could have been prevented (which CAN be prevented). I’ve had teachers pile work on me before, but not like this. The curriculum was way harder than anywhere I’ve ever experienced, the expectations put on students were incredibly unrealistic, but mostly it was unhealthy because of the insane pressure put on us from parents, teachers, and fellow students. This pressure to achieve unrealistic levels of academic success was what overrode the joys of education and instead made SO many students anxious and depressed.

There is a very real pressure on kids to achieve high levels of academic success. Especially now. Though high schools go about their different ways across the globe, there is essentially no one correct way to facilitate a classroom, nor one clear way to effectively mold students to become successful and good adults. Looking past schooling data, standardized tests, sports achievements, blah, blah, blah, I focused on the ENVIRONMENT of the school, and comparing the systems all the way from Finland to the United States, my point that strain and academic pressure on students will detriment them was verified.

Especially in junior year among the stress of maintaining a perfect GPA, and senior year among the frenzy of college apps and SAT scores, the large majority of conversations with my friends revolved around our stress, anxiety, and lack of motivation surrounding the work we had to do. And THAT was the problem! We had no motivation, and a lot of our jokes consisted of ‘killing ourselves,' dropping out of school and heading to the nearest strip club to hand in our applications. That it is, when you’re overwhelmed with pressure from parents and teachers, overwhelmed with overlapping due dates and four tests in a week to study for, you resort to cramming, procrastinating, and trying to drag ourselves out of an un-motivated rut. It festers up a hate for school.

The educational system is supposed to weave together curriculum and an enjoyable environment in which we can love and appreciate what we’re being taught, instead of looking past the information thrown at us. It should be where we’re GENUINELY interested as to what we’re learning, instead of solely focusing on due dates and as to how we can slide past it doing the bare minimum.

Schooling varies from place to place. Just seeing the shift between teaching methods and the general environment of schools, it struck my interest to really peer into how it affects students. I can definitely say that the Silicon Valley is on another level. It was an eye-opening experience to be flung into the middle of the biggest STEM centered hubs in the nation (even though sometimes it wasn’t enjoyable, and I was overwhelmed by work and societal pressure within the district). We need to find ways to teach our children to love what they’re being taught, implement excitement, motivation, and inspiration. Most importantly, we need to look into how we can eliminate toxic pressure. That pressure is the leading factor to mental health issues, lack of interest, and hatred for school. This pressure is what contributed to many, many suicides in my school district. If we do something about this pressure, and find a way to teach in a different light, lots of things will change.

Cover Image Credit: Didem Arslanoglu

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It's Time To Admit 'Natural' Intelligence An Outdated Idea

It's not about how smart you are, but about how hard you work.

Elementary school was a weird time. MAP tests, AR reading comprehension, PACT and PASS and virtually any other acronym you can think of for the standardized tests that ultimately distinguished whether or not you were considered relatively gifted. And, while in theory, this may or may not have prepared students for the rigorous curriculum of more challenging courses, I still have to ask: Is this really necessary at age 8?

Don't get me wrong, preparing kids with the highest quality education is what I'm here for... but it's also relatively difficult to decide who's "gifted and talented" and who's not.

Maybe I'm wrong, but with the rise of the gifted and talented curriculum in the early 2000s, came the plateau of the "honors kid burnout" in the 2010s.

Similar to the stigma of the participation trophy in kids sports, the establishment of a "more advanced curriculum" for students as young as 7 or 8 (I put that in quotations because, realistically, these courses were not significantly more advanced), in my opinion, unintentionally reinforced the idealized form of "natural intelligence".

Natural intelligence ultimately presents the idea that "smart" individuals should be able to learn or even simply have the knowledge, without the need to practice, memorize, or really study anything. You weren't considered "intelligent" if it took you more time to learn something, or you had to ask for help. Facts and memorization, intellect and intuition, came naturally and you either had it or you didn't.

This is problematic on multiple fronts.

The process of reaffirming elementary school students (again, this comes from my own personal experience and observation of those with similar experiences), and reinforcing the idea that they are "naturally" smart, gifted, or talented is great in ego-boosting throughout public school.


Entering into an actually academically advanced environment, whether it be Advanced Placement courses, or Dual Enrollment, or even as far as into college, there becomes a problem.

Students that have been told throughout a vast majoring of their lives that they were naturally gifted with intelligence have very early in life placed a negative association with studying, working hard, or having difficulty with something.

Students that have gotten straight A's throughout middle and high school simply by glancing at notes before the exam or by using common sense are have already been conditioned to associate something as simple as making flashcards or asking a teacher for help with failure.

Natural intelligence, natural talent, and virtually any idea that individuals have to be born with a skill in order to be significantly gifted is more often than not, counterproductive.

Making the goal of public education something as one dimensional as letter grades, and conditioning students to view them as more of a ranking system than as a showcase of hard work, does more than just discourage morale. It encourages efficiency. It encourages academic dishonesty. It encourages getting an A by any means necessary because, for someone who has been defined as "naturally intelligent" most of their life, they have no room for disappointment.

Children, especially in this day and age, need to be conditioned to view hard work as honorable, as respectable, and in no way a weakness, or something to be ashamed of. There are no "August Rush's" in this reality, but there are more than enough "Rudy."

Teaching kids that it was their hard work and their dedication that really got them that grade, alter how they view more than just grades. Encouraging hard work, diligence, dedication, and even something as simple as effort goes farther than just academics. Kids that are more encouraged to take risks and think creatively become kids that are more willing to try, regardless of the outcome.

Because life isn't really a grading system, but a test of skills and attitude.

It's not how smart you are, but how hard you work.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Steve Carell, Send Elisabeth to UMich, Not UW-Madison Because They Don't Know What It's Like To Be The Best

Why would you want your mascot to be a badger?

Steve Carell,

Thank you for blessing the University of Michigan campus with your presence on Tuesday.

Of course, our university's greatness speaks for itself, but in case you need more convincing that this is the best school for your daughter, here are six reasons we're better than UW-Madison (and every other school that wants to recruit Elisabeth).

1. How could UW-Madison have the craziest game days when we have the craziest game days?

Perhaps you've heard of The Big House. The University of Michigan is home to the biggest stadium in the United States (and second largest in the world), and every single game day it's filled with students, alumni, and die-hard Michigan fans who bleed maize and blue. Come sing “The Victors" and "Mr. Brightside" with us, and listen to James Earl Jones narrate the most hype pregame video before we chant “Go Blue!" Have I mentioned that we also have Harbaugh? UW-Madison just has a badger. 'Nuff said.

2. UW-Madison doesn't have the largest living alumni body of any university in the worldwe do

The Leaders and Best are everywhere. You could yell “Go Blue!" in the middle of a forest and I can almost guarantee someone will chant it back. The Michigan name is well-respected, and Elisabeth is guaranteed a vast network in any given field because once a Wolverine, always a Wolverine.

3. Our State Street is better than UW-Madison's State Street

Watch the streetlamps and State Theater sign light up S. State as you visit the M-Den for all of your Michigan gear needs. And don't forget to dip into Piada, Sava's, or Totoro for some delicious eats. Ann Arbor wasn't rated the best college town in the U.S. for nothing (sorry, not sorry, UW-Madison).

4. Wanna talk views? Try the Arb

Nichols Arboretum isn't part of our campus tours, but in this hidden gem, you'll find all of nature's best right on campus. Walk through miles of beautiful woods and go tubing down the Huron River in the summer. Come winter, though, find us sledding down some hills on dining hall trays.

Or the Diag

What is Bascom Hill compared to our glorious Diag? The crisscrossing diagonal walkways that give it its memorable name are always bustling with activity, from student activist groups to performers to dogs! You can't forget the dogs. I've walked out of Hatcher many, many times blown away by the sheer beauty of this school and its amazing students. Elisabeth will, too.

5. UW-Madison traditions got nothin' on ours

Being a Wolverine is walking through the fountain in Ingall's Mall at orientation and then again in the opposite direction once you graduate. It's happily waking up at 7 AM to tailgate your way to the Big House. Being a Wolverine is screaming "Mr. Brightside" at the top of your lungs at every game and party. It's never stepping on the M in the Diag, even when it's completely covered in snow, and painting the Rock on Hill Street in the pitch black, freezing cold. Being a Wolverine is spinning the Cube on your first visit to campus. But most importantly, it's the irresistible urge to shout "HAIL!" and "GO BLUE!"

6. No one, literally no one, beats the Michigan icons

President Schlissel is our king, Reggie the Campus Corgi is our wholesome teddy bear, Harbaugh is the crowning jewel, Tom Brady is the GOAT, and Billy Magic? Well, you'll just have to come to Michigan to learn about the utter brilliance of Billy Magic.

The University of Michigan is one of the leading universities in the world. Our students fight for real change on campus and in the world. They are incredibly talented and multi-faceted; Elisabeth will always have something new to learn from everyone she meets. Our campus will give her all the tools to become the next best Carell.

Steve Carell, make the right choice and send Elisabeth to the only school that will make her a Leader and the Best.


The entire UMich student body (but especially your biggest fans, Jessica Jung and Riya Gupta)

Cover Image Credit: Instagram | uofmichigan

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