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The Milton Measure

High School Pressure: Is It Necessary?

by Stacy Sukharevsky on Friday, May 13th, 2016

As the annual time for SAT’s, AP’s, and final projects rolls around, the pressure on high school students to memorize new and old material is high. Nowhere is this more true than at Milton Academy, where if you’re not taking at least one of each standardized per year, you’re doing something wrong. The expectations set by teachers, parents, and even fellow peers push us to study harder and stay up later at night, trying to finish every assignment on time. But why do we push ourselves so hard to meet and exceed these expectations? Why do we have so much fear of being unsuccessful?

When walking through the hallways at Milton, I constantly hear students — after getting a bad grade on a test — cry with a utter despair, “Oh God! I failed!” I am guilty of using this phrase myself, even in cases when it’s really not true. With every assignment or test, we set a goal for ourselves, and when the grade we get back does not match that goal, we are naturally disappointed. In other words, we convince ourselves that we have failed. While there is nothing wrong with being upset over a grade that is lower than what you expected, the disappointment that you feel should not affect your decisions regarding school from that point forward. The fear of failure is a powerful emotion, but we should not let it affect how much effort we put into any assignment, test, or class discussion.

Just recently, my friend and I were discussing the AP test we are both going to take in early May. During our conversation, she mentioned that she might not take the test at all, for fear of getting a bad score. “I’ll take it next year instead,” she told me. I was baffled. I had expressed my worries to her about this test a countless number of times but, despite my fears, I was still going to take the test. My fear of failure was not going to stop me from trying.

However, for many high schools students in the US, this frame of mind is not adopted: if all students are afraid to fail, or think they will get a bad grade on a test, they may not try at all. Their motivation to learn and to study is negatively affected, and their grades worsen. Unfortunately, we live in a society that thrives on competition, a society that believes good grades are the key to success. As young children, we are told that we must be successful in everything we do, and this mantra never leaves our heads as we grow up. The thought of receiving a bad grade or getting the answer wrong after raising their hand in class makes many students panic.

Despite the contrast in competition levels in high schools, the pressure to be successful and excel in all possible ways affects every student. Cheating is often a consequence of the stress that students experience during their academic years. Many students pay less attention to the educational aspect of school and focus solely on the numbers or letters that appear on their transcript. With the addition of extracurriculars, many students struggle to find the time for schoolwork and put in the requisite effort. Thus, some students find it is easier to cheat rather than put in those studying hours at home.

This way of thinking, however, is not correct; we should be doing everything in our power to try to change this vicious cycle. For the first 20 years of our life, our job is to learn and experience as many things as possible. The pressure we feel to succeed should not compromise this process. Otherwise, we are not educating ourselves properly, and we have failed to accomplish our main goal.
It is hard to remember that, at the end of the day, numbers do not define or identify us. After all, “it is better to try and fail, than never to try at all.”

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Posted by Stacy Sukharevsky on May 13 2016. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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