18 December 2008

Educational Pressure Cookers

The Washington Post.com reported December 1 that 64% of US students admit to cheating in school.

Recently, I've had several conversations with parents about the pressure their kids are under to do well in school. Students and parents are worrying about getting into the "right" college through a confusing blend of academic rigor, sports and community activities.

I reflected on my own high school experience. I had the time to take a challenging academic course load (but now would probably be considered remedial) and met the requirements to apply to University of California schools my senior year. I also had time for extracurricular activities and socializing.

Today, students are taking biology their freshman year and they had better be taking geometry by then too or they will be behind. Haven't taken Trigonometry by sophomore year (it wasn't even OFFERED at my high school)? That's a bad thing. What, only three AP classes your junior year?! Slacker!

Maybe this unseemly pressure is backing kids into a corner and they feel they have to cheat in order to keep their heads above water. I am NOT advocating cheating, but I do see the dark circles under the eyes, the anguished tears and the frustration that accompanies today's heavy course load. Maybe it's time we changed what we're doing in American education. There has to be a way to have a rigorous education without driving kids to the brink.