Media Focuses on High School Stress

Both the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times ran articles this weekend on the amount of stress faced by high schoolers. The Wall Street Journal reported that 11th grade has become a nightmare year for students hoping to go to elite colleges. As to the homework of one 11th grader, it wrote: “As [Ms. Glickman] moves from class to class, the demands of being a junior pile up. Honors Spanish — 30 minutes of homework a night. Advanced-placement English — 30 to 90 minutes a night, depending on which books or documents the class is studying. Honors pre-calculus — another hour of homework. Honors biology — 30 minutes more. At the end of the day comes Ms. Glickman’s favorite class and her toughest — advanced-placement history, with two hours of homework a night, including reading and regular essays.” The New York Times wrote that a lunch period is now becoming mandatory in some high-performing high schools, where students routinely skip eating so they can fit in one more class.

Of course, to readers of this blog, these stories are nothing new. The question still remains, though: when are we going to put an end to this?

7 thoughts on “Media Focuses on High School Stress

  1. Sara wrote:

    The question still remains, though: when are we going to put an end to this?


    Boycott Newsweek’s top high schools issue which hit the newstands last week. It’s Washington Post’s Jay Mathews’ Challenge Index, a ridiculous ranking system based on how many AP tests a school produces. Schools seem more interested in getting themselves into Mathews’ coveted top rankings than paying attention to the unbelievable stress level of its high schools students. Many schools are eliminating honors courses so it’s either regular (often remedial) or college level. What ever happened to high school?

    Don’t get me wrong. I am all for challenge, growth and innovation. But when a sixteen year old takes five APs, is up half the night (Ms. Glickman’s six hours of sleep is a luxury compared with what many juniors at my daughter’s high school get), stumbles into school on four hours sleep, is stressed, has piercing headaches, can’t focus, does not eat, and has micro-sleeps throughout the day, this is not challenge. This is endurance.

    My daughter is in a gifted program. I support every student rising to his or level of ability and challenge. But this “challenge” concept is running amok. I was and still am a staunch feminist. I raised my daughter to dream and then stretch to reach for it. But there’s a flip side and our daughters are paying for it dearly.

    My daughter’s adolescent sleep doctor (yes, we have a sleep doctor) cautioned us, “you do not want to come out of high school extremely exhausted.” I’ve watched the teens at my place of worship over the years. Each year, they take on more AP’s. They are getting less and less sleep. High school is less about growth, ideas and discovering your passions and more about crammning, overloading, burnishing that college resume.

    I’ve watched these teens over the years. The pattern begins to take on a depressing familiarity after a while. They cram APs into their schedule. Each year, they take on more, sleep a little less. The parents worry, just a little, and decide, this is a rite of passage, a necessary evil. If I encourage my daughter to cut an AP or two, they rationalize, there goes the elite college. Too great a risk.

    I see these kids. They soldier on. They graduate. Many do indeed wind up at top colleges. Some, not all. Some began to falter well before the finish line, felled by depression, anxiety and mono.

    They go on to college. The cycle starts again. Except now they don’t want to work as hard. In some strange inverse, we have our teens knocking themselves out in high school and easing back in college. Shouldn’t the reverse be true?

    The end is near. They graduate college. Some move back home. Many get jobs. I’m seeing less of them going on to graduate school. Too burned out, they say.

    But I’m seeing something else. With some exceptions, I’m not seeing this generation lighting the world on fire. They aren’t like us, the baby boomers, who were allowed to play and dream and read. I don’t see the innovation, the fire in their spirit, the light in their eyes. I remember being so hungry when I began work. So eager, so idealisitc, so creative. I can confidently say the stress kids undergo today would have shriveled all that up. But I had a normal childhood, in that regard.

    These kids, they are now in their 20’s and “Girls just wanna have fun.” Play is important. But as my sister once said, “if you cannot be a child during your childhood, you will be a child when you are most expected to finally grow up.”



  2. >>>>>>The question still remains, though: when are we going to put an end to this?

    Yes, my question exactly. I’m a fifth grade teacher. I don’t assign a lot of homework. When I do it’s something that will (hopefully) make the kids take the concept a little further. A common type of homework is “dinner discussion”. Kids are supposed to start a conversation on the topic we’re discussing in class. They then write a short response paragraph for me to show what they now think of the issue based on getting a bigger view.

    So the type of homework I assign is not the traditional type and the amount is very different (days at a time go by with no homework).

    The reason I share this is because this year, I’ve had a couple of parents ask me (and even go to my principal) how I can possibly think the kids are learning enough without homework. They ask if I’m properly preparing kids for the future.

    I’ve had teachers question me about my lack of homework.

    So how do we stop talking about change and best practices and logical teaching methods? How do we stop talking about it and make it happen?

    Do I just continue to do it and be a part of the change, by sticking to what I believe and hoping parents/teachers see the light? Do I just quietly in my little corner of the world do the things that I hope will spread? Because it wears you down being the only one doing things.


  3. M — I wish you taught at my daughter’s school! I’m always hearing about these parents asking for more homework and I think the best response is education. Can you gently steer the parents in the direction of some of the books and research coming out? Or maybe you could tell them that reading books is the most effective homework and send them home with a list of recommendations (hmm … as long as it doesn’t wind up feeling like a chore to the kid.)

    You might not hear from the parents who are relieved by your policy but I guarantee you that they’re out there.


  4. It is so hard and stressful. I cant come home having a great time .Im staight to work. Im only in grade five and already im having a stressful time .I feel like im in high school but im not .Already im feeling the pressure and im tired of it . i say we can get homework but not be having to much. Us kids need a break.Come on teachers give us a BREAK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  5. I am writing an article for my school newspaper and some of this info is shocking t me!! Students skipping lunch to make time for mire classes is absolutely CRAZY!!! Although students can do a lot to fix their stress levels.


  6. I am writing an article for my school newspaper and some of this info is shocking to me!! Students skipping lunch to make time for more classes is absolutely CRAZY!!! Although students can do a lot to fix their stress levels.


  7. It is really stressfull. I’m failing math, I’m getting behind in french, and I’m worried that I’m not going to get a high enough mark in art (or school period) to do the job I want. I’ve basically almost given up on math… my mom thinks I need a tutor. Not to mention all the obnoxious kids there are at my school….


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