Saturday, May 12, 2018

Noteworthy Articles about Teens and College

Every year the New York Times puts out a call for college essays from high school seniors.  This year's is a great collection; perhaps show your middle schooler or young high school student for inspiration.  I think the first writer in the series - Eric Ngugi Muthondu - is going to be a great writer someday.
On yet another serious note, a series , 45 stories of Sex and Consent on Campus, is eye-opening reading. Again, maybe another article use to talk to your teen about sex and consent.

One of the best:
Does “I don’t want to have sex right now” mean “I don’t want to be turned on right now”? Maybe it means different things in different situations. Sometimes it means, “I’m not in the mood,” and sometimes it means, “We don’t have time for this.” Sometimes it’s, “I just want to snuggle.” There’s a fine line between what is sexy and what is sleazy, between what is seductive and what is coercive. She tells me that in the moment it felt good. But later she was mad at herself for not sticking to her earlier decision. That she enjoyed herself and that she is angry and she doesn’t know if I did anything wrong either.

Something she said to me that morning: “I like having your hands on me.”

She placed her trust in me, in my hands. Her expectation is that my hands provide comfort and pleasure, but more than anything, respect. It took work to earn this trust, but this trust can easily be lost. Without communication, your touch can become foreign, unwelcome or harmful. Even after a year together.

Recognize this trust placed in your touch. Don’t lose it.
Ben, Ohio
Someone raised this young man right.

And last, a sad story about a college suicide that raises questions about what parents can be told.  You may be paying the bills but you have no rights to any information about your student.  Did you know that?
Every year, parents send their children to college, trusting that they will be well, or that word will come if they are not. Ms. Burton had lived every parent’s nightmare: a child flunking out, sinking into despair, his parents the last to know. Her discovery set off a wave of pain and soul-searching but also a campaign to strip away some of the veils of confidentiality that colleges say protect the privacy and autonomy of students who are learning to be adults.
Professors at Hamilton College, in upstate New York, had expressed concerns about Mr. Burton for much of the fall term and knew he was in deep distress, according to a report on his death that was shown to The New York Times. More than a month before his death, his adviser, Maurice Isserman, wrote the academic dean the strongest of many warnings: “Obviously what’s happening here is a complete crash and burn. I don’t know what the procedures/rules are for contacting parents but if this was my kid, I’d want to know.”
As colleges contend with how involved to be in students’ lives, parents, too, often struggle with their responsibility to recognize when their children need help. Some Hamilton administrators said that they did not want to encourage helicopter parenting, and that parents were sometimes part of the problem.

“There’s a concern that if the school has too low a threshold for contacting family or suggesting a student take a leave of absence, it will actually discourage kids from coming forward for help,” said Dr. Victor Schwartz, the chief medical officer at the Jed Foundation, an advocacy group for student mental health. “So you’re basically walking a tightrope.”
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death, after accidents, for college-age adults in the United States. The number of college students seeking treatment for anxiety and depression has risen sharply over the past few years, and schools have in turn stepped up their efforts in mental health research and intervention. Even so, families have continued to put pressure on them to take greater responsibility for students’ well-being.
In a case that was closely watched across the country, Massachusetts’s highest court ruled on Monday that M.I.T. could not be held responsible for the 2009 suicide of a graduate student. But the court ruled that a university might be liable under limited circumstances, such as when a student expressly tells college staff members of plans to commit suicide. 
 However, the article does offer some ways in:
College officials say they are constrained by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or Ferpa, a federal law governing student privacy, in reaching out to parents. A Hamilton official cited it at a recent student assembly meeting, when students asked about the Burtons’ contention that they had not been told of their son’s troubles. The law views students as adults and bars parents from even the most basic student records, like a transcript, without their child’s consent.

There are exceptions:
  • Colleges can release any student record to parents if the student signs a consent, 
  • if the college knows that a parent claims the child as a dependent on tax forms, 
  • or in a health or safety emergency.
 Even so, federal law allows colleges to use their discretion. They are allowed, but not required, to release the records or let a family member know if a student is suicidal.


RHS alumni said...

There have been 2 successful suicides at Roosevelt High school and both have been over excessive homework and grades. The colleague I work with had her daughter commit suicide unsuccessfully this year as a senior at RHS because the homework load depressed her. Her mom told me that while she was in Harborview, the teachers still expected her to do the same workload in order to graduate. I have been asking students at bus stops how much homework they get per night and it ranges from 4 hours to 6 hours per night. That means our children, who have no union, are working 11 to 12 hour shifts every day. A Stanford research study said homework over 2 hours is not just stressful but unhealthy and leads to anxiety and depression. No wonder the Roosevelt climate survey has only 38 percent of students saying they feel calm and relaxed at school. I went to the principal about this but that was a waste of time. She is going to o nothing. When I told her about my colleagues daughter, she said there have been a lot of syicidecattempts at Roosevelt this year. You think, given that, she would be eager to fo something to help our children in her care.

RHS alumni said...

And Happy Mother's Day. Ant RHS parents on here willing to strike n front of RHS to demand less homework? They are ruining our children's sense of self and well being and taking away their high-school experience. Let me know.

Seattle Citizen said...

"Her mom told me that while she was in Harborview, the teachers still expected her to do the same workload in order to graduate"

What the actual...

If this is true, it's an abomination.

Outsider said...

That story about RHS homework sounds fishy. Are these tiger-parented students taking four AP courses? If you have a course load that is supposed to be worth essentially a full year of college credit, you ought to expect 25 hours per week of homework and not complain. If you don't like it, maybe dial back a bit, and leave more of college for college.

RHS alumni said...

Outsider, the story is not fishy. Just google "Roosevelt suicide" and you will find the news story about the two successful attempts at suicide at Roosevelt and that they were committed because of the homework load. And, yes, every child I know going to,Roosevelt has at least 4 hours of homework per night. Don't trust me--look at the Roosevelt student climate survey from last year as proof. Only 38 percent of students say they feel calm and not stressed at school. That is a close as you will get to understanding stress from homework. And I am not talking AP classes at all. These are regular ed. classes. If you have a RHS child, ask the, to,keep track of the hours of homework they do when they are doing their best work and not just the work. And, yes, the teachers really did expect the senior in Harborview to do the full work load.Maybe a journalist will read this and investigate. Someone needs to shine a light on this because it is just so horrible our children are being put through this.

Anonymous said...

This is the joy of Project Based Learning!

There are some in this world who are unable to recognize time as a finite resource. They are the same ones who control your children's workload. They are education majors. We should all be protesting PBL for the sake of our children. It is great if your child has 2 or 3 classes per quarter, but the head-spinning schedules of 6, 7 or 8 periods at all times, for simple high school graduation, make PBL unethical and cruel.

Because students are taking so many classes at once (and soon to be more) all classes should be limited to a half-hour of problem set, or half-hour assigned readings, just 3 times a week, and two 3-page or three one-page essays per quarter MAX. Think about it, if every one of your students 7 classes assigned 30 minutes of homework (far less than many classes assign now) then that is 3.5 hours of homework, after sports, music, volunteer work, dinner, chores etc. Your children would not sleep (and probably don't.) If your kid is a little slow, or struggling to understand, then a half-hour problem set can easily double or triple in time required. Projects, and group projects, often require *hours* of work outside class multiple times per week. There are simply too many required classes to allow any Project Based Learning from any teacher. It is amazing that there are not more suicides.

I read an interesting article a while back about the concept of death by excessive work. Apparently Japan has had a real problem with it, and has been forced to put practices in place to help prevent it. I think the risk of death increased with only 50 or 60 hours of work per week. Anyone else read it? Roosevelt students are living it. I bet it is not just Roosevelt.

Perhaps there should be a student union. Teens could learn to organize for their own rights.


Rough Ride said...

A teen’s risk for suicide varies with age, gender, and cultural and social influences. Risk factors may change over time. They are:
This whole conversation is unhelpful to something that is a real health problem for our teens. Risk factors for teen suicide include:
—One or more mental or substance abuse problems
—Impulsive behaviors
—Undesirable life events or recent losses, such as the death of a parent
—Family history of mental or substance abuse problems
—Family history of suicide
—Family violence, including physical, sexual, or verbal or emotional abuse
—Past suicide attempt
—Gun in the home
—Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as from family or peers, in the news, or in fiction stories

Notice that homework is not on the list. Which makes sense because pretty much all HS students have a lot of homework and if homework caused suicide, they would all be killing themselves. They are not. Meanwhile there are many students in our district who are dealing with *actual* problems that can contribute to suicide. Misinformation is not helpful. Suicide is a serious medical issue.

Too much homework is not a serious medical issue. It could be a cause for protest and should certainly be a topic of conversation. But don't conflate issues. It is not helpful to actual students dealing with actual problems.

RHS alumni said...

Rough Ride,
Well, excuse me for actually trusting the two,children who,actually killed themselves to,explain why they did it. I guess you know better. But how do you explain the fact that S. Korea has the highest rate of childhood suicide and S. Korea has students working a 17 hour day when tutors and homework are factored in? I guess the S. Koreans have lots of family history of suicide, that's why. Oh, wait, back in the past when S. Korea had no homework, kids didn't kill themselves. What can that possibly mean?

The problem Rough Rider, is putting your psycho-babble over a very real issue. You are deliberately muddying the issue so there is no light shone on this very real problem Roosevelt is facing. It wouldn't surprise me if you were actually a Roosevelt counselor, hm?

The Stanford Study done in 2014 showed a direct correlation between the kind of stress and alienation that leads to suicide and homework load. So, Rough Ride, you are actually the perpetrator of MISINFORMATIOn.

RHS alumni said...

Rough Ride,
Here are some statistics:

1. One in 6 children are put on medicine to,help,them function in school
2. The longer the hours students spend on homework, the higher the suicide rate among this student sunb-group
3. Students who reported feeling depressed and suicidal because of homework found that the stress and depression disappeared over the summer in 9 out of 10 cases
4. Only 44 percent of students reported on the RHS climate survey that teachers take the time to get to know them
5. Our children are spending the day at Roosevelt with adults who don't even bother to get to know or care about them
6. No wonder they feel depressed
7. Is is not natural or normal
8. Someone needs to do something to change Roosevelt's toxic atmosphere

Thank you, West, you are right, it is all about projects in all 6 classes. Displays, presentations, 10 page papers, etc., etc. Only the math teachers seem to be on track in understanding each c,ass should only give 20 minutes of work daily. There assignments are reasonable.

RHS alumni said...

Their assignments. Typo.

RHS alumni said...

And, Rough Ride, I went to your site and you conveniently left out "problems in school" as also leading to suicide. And you don't find 11 to 12 hour work days a problem? Shame on you, then.

Anonymous said...

Rough Ride,

Working with suicidal folks here is what I see for imminent risk factors:

-Sense of hopelessness
-Lack of realistic plan for future (or threat to current plan)
-Major threat to financial future
-Loss of job
-Lawsuit or legal trouble
-Gambling loss
-Failure to obtain or loss of license
-Inability to obtain degree/accreditation
-Major injury or illness
-Social humiliation or social network failure
-Lawsuit or exposure of wrongdoing
-Public failure, shaming or fear of shaming
-Loss of love
-Death of spouse, child, parent/grandparent, friend or lover
-Sleep deprivation or shift-work
-Sense of loss of control
-Losing faith in own abilities or self-determination
-Lack of faith in God
-Mental illnesses
-Psychophrenia with command hallucinations or fixed suicidal thoughts
-Access to lethal means (if you think about it we all have access)
-Plan for suicide

People in these crises need immediate protection and intervention, love, support, professional help, more creative planning for the future, faith, prayer, sleep, observation, and often medication.

Teens are not some separate species. They are people with a little less experience. Their time is just as valuable as yours. Their lives are just as valuable as yours. A suicidal crisis in a teen is, at root, the same as for an adult.

When their high school diploma is threatened it is a threat to a lifetime of earnings potential.

It is a threat to their social sphere and is a threat of social humiliation. A threat to graduation would expose their shortcomings and failures in pacing, time-management, or lack of skill.

It is a threat to their family, as a failure in high school, could cause a less than understanding parent to withdraw love and support.

After all their hours of homework and insomnia from worry over homework they are too sleep deprived to handle any more stress.

Perhaps a student simply does not have any more time left in the day for another hand drawn poster board, or research paper.

Imagine if you had sat at your computer all day, fought traffic all the way home, got dinner on the table for your kids, put them in bed, and then instead of a moment to yourself and a good night sleep you had 4 or 5 hours of reports and projects assigned. Imagine that situation every night, with just a few hours sleep. You would very quickly look for a new job.

Perhaps teens do not have the creativity or maturity yet to see a way out of the project based learning crisis that school has created, and perhaps they do not have the family support at home to get them out of it.

Believe me, project based learning in high school is a crisis. Believe me, college is MUCH less time consuming (because you would never take 7 courses at once.)


Anonymous said...

@ Rough Ride, maybe you missed this part of the article you cited?

The teen years are a stressful time. They are filled with major changes. These include body changes, changes in thoughts, and changes in feelings. Strong feelings of stress, confusion, fear, and doubt may influence a teen’s problem-solving and decision-making. He or she may also feel a pressure to succeed.

For some teens, normal developmental changes can be very unsettling when combined with other events, such as:

- Changes in their families, such as divorce or moving to a new town
- Changes in friendships
- Problems in school
- Other losses

These problems may seem too hard or embarrassing to overcome. For some, suicide may seem like a solution.


The teen years are a stressful time. They are filled with major changes. These include body changes, changes in thoughts, and changes in feelings. Strong feelings of stress, confusion, fear, and doubt may influence a teen’s problem-solving and decision-making. He or she may also feel a pressure to succeed.

For some teens, normal developmental changes can be very unsettling when combined with other events, such as:

Changes in their families, such as divorce or moving to a new town
Changes in friendships
Problems in school
Other losses
These problems may seem too hard or embarrassing to overcome. For some, suicide may seem like a solution.