Nearly everyone says that it’s important to hold on to youth, because those are the best years of one’s life. But nowadays, life for teens isn’t as magical as many seem to think it is.
In addition to going through the painful transition from child to adult, teenagers face common hurdles such as drugs, alcohol, sex, peer pressure, and just as important: the burdens of education. Many adults scoff at any teenager complaining about school; “Wait till you enter the real world,” they say. “School is nothing compared to work, relationships, taxes, bills and other ‘real’ responsibilities.” But here’s something to consider: just because adolescence isn’t typically as difficult as adulthood, that doesn’t mean it’s the proverbial walk in the park.
In the U.S., we are born into the education system; education is not viewed as a privilege but it’s something that everyone should be grateful for. By the time we reach around age six, we are legally required to attend school, and by high school, the heavy grind begins. Stress rises, with 68% of it related to school — and it is not simply from homework, or tests and quizzes. It is often caused by the fear of failure. Teens are frequently so terrified of not succeeding in life that the pressure to push harder and harder becomes overwhelming.
It isn’t uncommon to see that the hopes for the future are placed on the shoulders of teens by the age of 15. How teens do in school will carry through to college which will, in turn, affect the quality of profession teens will achieve later on. All these responsibilities are pushed on to teenagers during a time when they are still growing and managing raging hormones — but are mostly immature.
Modern schools are like a competition. Students devote themselves to things that adults say their lives depend on: GPAs, SATs, ACTs, APs, IBs, clubs, honor societies, sports, volunteering…and the list goes on. And these tasks are coupled with crumbling self-esteem because when students look around it’s not difficult to find someone who is believed to be ‘better’ — and then the constant comparison begins.
After the high school years, many students go on to college where suicide rates are up to almost 11,000 annually because all the stress felt in high school is magnified; suddenly everything is more important than it was before. If that isn’t enough, the economic recession and job shortages make us worry even more about the security of our futures. Here we are forced to decide what career to pursue for the rest of our lives during a time when we don’t yet know what kind of person we are. We’re told to choose majors that will earn us the most money, not something that we can imagine ourselves doing for the rest of our lives.
The message is harsh but simple: they’re not telling us that money is the most important thing in life. They’re telling us that security is more important than enjoying what we do for the majority of our days, for the majority of our lives.
The world will never stop being competitive; it’s a downside to the overpopulation we are experiencing. One article will not revamp the entire education system but what we can do is raise awareness and start teaching our students that if they work hard, they can play hard. School doesn’t have to feel like such a burden if students enjoy themselves along the way; many perceive relaxing as slacking off, but it is simply finding ways to have fun and just enjoy our youth. Stopping to breathe and re-evaluate the important things in life is sometimes just what students need; it’s important to spread this message.