The Monster in Our Schools: Pressure and Competition

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Pressure and competition are great sources of diversity and success, but can they also be extremely harmful? A quick glance into the life of a high school student proves this to be true. Pressure from all possible sides attack high school students in the attempt to make a sparkling diamond, but instead result in the student erupting into a pile of dust. While not all students suffer from the same pressures and responsibilities, many find their stress inducers to be similar. Sources of student stress often stem from family, work, school, and even self-induced pressure. School in particular places a large amount of pressure on students to succeed.

“School” is a word muttered with disgust throughout linoleum-paved hallways. Students use self-deprecating and often morbid jokes to cover up just how much school is making them suffer. While education is important and a wonderful opportunity in the United States, public school systems today may be putting too much pressure on our students. Why are our students suffering so much? Aside from non-academic pressure, there are many stressors from within school itself. One large stressor is grades. The purpose of grades is to evaluate a student’s abilities and monitor their learning, but grades have become so much more than this. As soon as the grading system changed from numbers to letters with the transition from elementary to middle school, it has been made clear to students that grades are everything. Teachers drill into students’ heads that in order to be successful in life, one must receive good grades. Students are under the impression that the grades they receive in high school will impact the rest of their lives, and while it is important to try one’s best in school, a lower grade is not going to be the end of the world. Students become so desperate to succeed it is often detrimental to their mental and physical health. As Chris Crouch, writer for The Huffington Post, explains, “By focusing and stressing grades as parents and teachers, we force our children to believe that the destination is more important than the journey.” Instead of working to learn and enjoy the education they are receiving, students instead are memorizing and regurgitating information to achieve a higher grade. As Crouch also states, “Many kids feel pressured to cut corners, sacrifice ethics, and take easier courses, all in an effort to achieve better grades instead of better learning.” Cutting corners sometimes includes cheating. It has been expressed by Barbara Palmer, Stanford News writer, that there often is a link between cheating and “the social pressure put on students to prize high grades over education and other values.” Cheating does not always stem from a complete lack of integrity. Instead of placing focus on grades, education should be geared towards individual learning. This will result in a much more enjoyable experience for both students and teachers.

Grades have created a monster within schools. While the beast may not be big and hairy, it sure has enormous fangs which have latched onto our students. This beast is known as competition. Friendly competition may be all fun and games in sports and activities, but when it comes to education, it’s brutal. Students are fighting for the highest class rank in their grade, and while physical fists may not be flying, students are still taking a hit. The better grades a student receives, the higher his/her class rank is and the better chance he/she has of receiving scholarships. This is where students being told their grades matter after high school comes in. Higher grades result in more scholarships, and more scholarships mean college is cheaper. With higher education costing as much as it does, students are desperate to be the best in their class. But competition in schools does not just include grades. Students face such high pressure to participate and excel in school activities and sports. While it is wonderful to be a part of one’s school, clubs and and activities are not ideal for every student. Not every student is capable of juggling academics, activities, and any other obligations he/she may face such as employment or caring for siblings. But again, students are pushed to participate in as many activities as possible to receive more scholarships and be the most sparkling diamond.

The monster of competition and pressure may be scary, but it is important for students to remember they can only try their hardest. One’s best effort may not always result in an A, but with perseverance, students can still succeed. Sometimes hard work deserves a bit of decompression and relaxation, so put down that math assignment or English paper you have been staring at for the last thirty minutes, and take a deep breath. The monster can’t hurt you.