Guest Blogger: A High School Student Speaks Out

The school year has just started and I’ve been inundated with letters from students, mostly high schoolers, who are crying out for help. I’ve run pieces by students in the past, but I intend to run even more this school year. I hope their words will move you to action.

Today’s entry is by Abigail Chao, a senior at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. In her own words, “She is the owner of a 4.0/4.0 GPA, founder of one of the largest clubs on campus, and a varsity tennis player. She is a near-perfect product of the education system. She is drowning.”

Too Busy to Dream
by Abigail Chao

Tell me if this is healthy.

Over Labor Day weekend, my hometown throws a carnival. Instead of going, I spent Saturday sleeping till noon, and then started homework. Instead of watching a movie with a friend, I went to bed at 8:30pm because I was still so tired. On Sunday, I spent over five hours trying to make a dent in one homework assignment – reading Aristotle’s Ethics. Admittedly, I spend a couple hours at a sweet sixteen party, but I left early to work. I didn’t finish Ethics until well into Monday, and then I started my other homework – physics, computer science, English, etc.

It’s okay though, right? I’m a senior at one of the best high schools in the nation. I’m supposed to be working hard.

Now tell me if this is healthy.

Over Labor Day weekend, a family with young children is going to their town’s carnival. But the father has work to do. He stays up late Friday night after work to get a little ahead, but then sleeps in until noon; he’s exhausted from sleep debt over the week. He starts working again so he can join his wife and kids later, but by eight o’clock he’s too tired…

I won’t continue the analogy because I think my point is pretty obvious. The kind of rigor that is routinely demanded from students is outrageous in the context of working adults. And it’s not just the stereotypical overworked father – it’s the college grad who works 80 hours a week too. If anyone is wondering why Americans are such workaholics, I’d say that homework has something to do with it.

As students, we are told to put school first. We must do our homework before we hang out with friends, play sports, or just relax. That time at the mall could have been better spent hitting the books. If your grades are dropping, the first thing you do (or your parents make you do) is quit your extracurriculars. Never mind that it’s pointless to spend an hour entering data into Excel, that social skills are more important than academic abilities will ever be, that America is struggling against obesity.

I know that the stress of projects and homework has gotten ridiculous when going to class is relaxing in comparison. I know something is wrong when I explain why I don’t have “me time” except maybe my shower. I know our priorities are out of whack when we hardly hear the answer to “How are you?” but we show that our genuine interest by asking, “Were you productive?”

Does anyone notice that there is a generation of brilliant minds drowning in homework?

Sometimes, I dream about what I’d do with the extra time. I can’t promise it’d be all “productive,” but I’d play more tennis. I’d get published. I’d learn another language. I’d start a business. I’d just… breathe.

2 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: A High School Student Speaks Out

  1. Reading this prompted me to send a text message to a cousin who, like you, seem to have it all together (I assumed that myself). She was class president all four years of high school. She gave a speech at high school graduation that made some of the admins speeches sound like 3rd graders wrote them.

    She just graduated from college, a Physical Therapist, and from what I understand, her studying was simply unbelievable, even compared to high school. She was the highest gpa kid in her class up through the eight grade.

    Once in high school she had more competition but either way, she suffered from homework-itis as much as anyone I know. I know for a fact that she sat home many Friday and Saturday nights to do homework and study while her friends were all going to football games, etc.

    She is engaged to be married now and this last semester of school, she quit work because it was so difficult. Her parents are dirt poor and her husband-to-be took up her car payment just so she could take on one semester without having to work.

    Anyway, I hope to get a guest post from her on my site and since she made it through the cruel world that was too much homework in high school plus college, maybe she can lend you some much needed advice as well as give Sara and company (including me) some advice on how to continue to combat this kind of craziness.

    I love your analogy about a working man and his family and it hits home hard. It is so very true and it was a great piece of writing.

    Try your best to find a way to lighten up, without rebelling, and hopefully start a trend in your own area so that teachers, parents and other students understand that a child’s job is not just to go to school; children have a second job and that is to play and be free.

    I hope you find a way to make it work for the sake of enjoying your last year of school.


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