Musings on High School Stress

My daughter is going crazy.

No, not literally. But stress-wise, yes. She’s at school from 7am to 7pm, constantly working on homework (luckily, we don’t have to remind her to do it), studying, studying, studying. She comes home, takes a nap, and then works to midnight and does it all again. In tenth grade, she’s occupied with two AP classes (stats and world history), honors classes, and working on the technical crew for the performing arts program.

Gee, I didn’t have that schedule until college.

So, over lunchtime, I’ve been wondering what we’re doing to our high school students. Certainly, this isn’t the 1950s idyll of high-school that we saw in movies like Grease, American Graffiti, or popularized in TV shows like Happy Days. Who has time to hang out at the burger joint? It doesn’t fit my recollection of high-school in the 1970s: I don’t remember that much stress or work, and certainly not as many AP classes. We had perhaps four for the entire school, and kids didn’t start taking them until 12th grade. Most kids didn’t do AP (I never did).

Our children are stressed (and we then wonder why they snap). They can’t have fun on their summers: they have to build their resume to get into a good school (as well as making money to attend it). Extracurricular activities are measured not in the energy but in the points for college. They can’t explore what they want to do; they have to make up their minds earlier and earlier.

So why are we overstressing our youth? Is it to prepare them for the stressed business world? Is this really the lesson we should be teaching? How does the life of a high-school student today differ from when you went to school (and I know I have folks reading this who were in high-school in the 1960s if not earlier, as well as folks who are currently in high-school or just graduated)