It is about what we are doing to kids, their joy of learning and the nature of learning.
My stress began in elementary school, where students were segregated into separate class meetings as "early" and "late" readers. Although we were just elementary schoolers, we perceived this as a differentiation between the less and more advanced students and either felt superior due to our intellect or shamed for a "lack" thereof.
Middle school didn't get any better. At the end of sixth grade, we were placed into either Pre-Algebra or Pre-Algebra Advanced, though nobody referred to the classes as such. Any math class without the word advanced in it was referred to as the "dumb" math lane (a label that has followed into high school math courses as well). I like to think of this as the reason I lost my enthusiasm and confidence for math so early -- how could I possibly feel intelligent when the class I was in was considered dumb?
Very good points. She goes on to describe the pressures of high school and then says this:
I want students in this district to be content, enjoy their lives, and view our schools as places where they can come and receive legitimate support for any of their problems. And, let me make clear, I understand that not all problems relating to suicide and depression are directly correlated to school.
We are not teenagers. We are lifeless bodies in a system that breeds competition, hatred, and discourages teamwork and genuine learning. We lack sincere passion. We are sick.
We, as a community, have completely lost sight of what it means to learn and receive an education.
Why is that not getting through to this community? Why does this insanity that is our school district continue?
Effective education does not have to correlate to more stress. Taking an advanced course should not be synonymous with copious amounts of homework. Challenging oneself academically and intellectually should be about just that -- a mental challenge which involves understanding concepts at a deeper level.
One of the commenters - who previously attended Palo Alto High decades - had this to say:
So what has changed in a quarter-century, apart from housing prices and this ill-conceived "zero period"? From what I gather, the kind of hyper-competitive, obsessive worrying we used to shrug at or even ridicule in my day has become the socially acceptable norm. No detail is too small to stress over. "If I only take three AP classes next semester instead of four, will I still have a chance of getting into Yale?" That's a made-up question intended as caricature, but embodies an ethic that seems to take such things seriously now.
The "Tiger Mom" ethic where anything less than perfection is deemed failure is insidious, pathological, even emotionally abusive in my book. This coming from an alum who "downshifted" from four to three AP classes senior year, graduated from Paly with a respectable but not spectacular GPA, went on to graduate from the finest liberal arts college in the country and ultimately Ivy League professional school. One of the first things they did at the latter was to sit us down and gently explain that some of us would be getting B's for the first time in our lives. The fact that they had to do such a thing, because 20-something elite graduate students' self-worth was riding on grades, speaks volumes.
What is the nature of learning? Of teaching? Why are we educating our students? Or, should we just be training them?
And what do the choices that we, as adults, make affect outcomes for children?