- Axel de Vernou and William Briger ’21
When we try to answer why students have so much homework and such little sleep, we blame each other and our system of time. Yes, we lack interdisciplinary and student-teacher communication. Yes, our schedule has flaws. However, this isn’t the whole story. The SHP culture of making ourselves look better through AP/Honors classes, perfect college apps, and an absurd number of extracurricular activities is also the root of the problem.
No matter what changes we make to the schedule, the system will remain broken if we do not fix our approach to education. Students need to make decisions for their own growth and development… not the way that others view them.
When a student takes 5 AP classes and expects an A in all of them, they are accepting the fact that they might get 5 hours or more of homework on a given night. By making that choice, they lose the right to complain. But all we hear in the hallways is, “Class A is impossible. Class B is absolute hell.”
We need to stop thinking that this is the ideal path. The sacrifice of physical/mental health is not worth the reward of 2 college credits, a .3 GPA boost, or the letter A. Students even skip lunch and flock to Harman in order to take the math competitions just to gain two points of extra credit for their gradebook. What values does our school promote if that is our standard? None that encourage “A deep respect for intellectual values” or “an atmosphere of wise freedom.” We’re all culprits of this system. Would you really take that extra history or spanish class if you didn’t have a transcript?
One reason we act like this is because the school allows it. Take the grading system. The fact that getting a C can radically change your entire life after high school is not OK.
The school can tell us as many times as it wants to fit in that ten minute meditation, to look out for our wellness, to remember that “it’s not the grade that counts,” but unfortunately, these words do not amount to very much. We can’t listen to them. Society and applications have shown us that grades are what matter. The moment that we fail to get an A on the assignment that we spent hours studying, we break down and take it out on ourselves.
Consider your schedule. Do you genuinely feel like most of those classes were meaningful? Did you take them out of passion or interest for the subject or because your advisor told you to? The school, and ultimately the system, has shone a negative light on the unique programs that students want to take, those with the potential to enrich us.
All juniors are forced to take AP English because apparently getting practice on a standardized test holds more importance than focusing on a different subject of your interest. Students stack up certain classes that don’t intrigue them because they look good on paper, not because they enjoy it. Creative Inquiry is seen as a bad thing on your transcript. So is an extra art. Taking two languages at the same time is a waste of a slot.
Are we saying that students should not take AP classes or consider college an important goal? No. We seriously want students to be healthier. Whether this means reworking our AP classes, only providing the hour of homework to the students who really crave it, or changing the way we look at grades, we must address our culture in the same way that we tackle the time it takes to complete our homework.
Photo captured by Jake Birdwell ’20