By Sofia Lynch
High school: just the mention of it can send a shiver of bad memories down a person’s spine. Although some people may look back on their teen years and consider them their best years, their high school education probably wasn’t to thank for that. Due to the mental limits it pushes, the poorly-placed focus, and the lack of true college preparation, a high school education as we know it today isn’t picture perfect and may be working against the way students and their bodies work.
Though many stressful high school flashbacks involve flinch worthy rejections or party invites not received, school itself is one of the leading causes of stress.
A survey by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of all teens – 45 percent – said they were stressed by school pressures. A new NPR poll, conducted with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, found that in most cases with high schoolers experiencing stress, that stress is from academics, not social issues or bullying.
On average, ninth through 12th grade teachers report assigning 3.5 hours worth of homework a week, according to the University of Phoenix. Not so bad, right? Well, those hours were reported for individual teachers, so for a high schooler with six classes, that adds up to an average of 21 hours of homework per week.
According to an aforementioned NPR poll, 38 percent of first through 12th grade students spend 7 – 7.5 hours in school. So, once again, let’s look at the numbers. There are 21.5 hours left in a high schooler’s week if you subtract the hours spent at school and on school work, the hours of the weekend, and the recommended eight-hour minimum a teen should sleep. Considering these numbers, that leaves approximately 4.3 hours for a student to take to themselves on a school day.
Those 4.3 hours, however, are not decidedly “free” time. With the prospect of college weighing on a lot of high school students, many try to bulk up their future college applications with extracurricular activities or part-time jobs. Factoring the possibility of those after school endeavours, a student’s free time is down to about nothing.
On top of having minimal free time, teenagers have such an issue with getting enough sleep that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls it an “epidemic,” according to the Society of Science. SOS also cited the American Academy of Pediatrics, who reported that classes starting earlier than 8:30 a.m. can throw off a student’s circadian clock.
Sleep is precious, especially when one is already under a lot of stress. If a student stays up late doing homework or has to wake up especially early to catch the bus, by the time they’ve dragged themselves to a 7 a.m. class, their learning capability is shot – especially with a challenging course, like chemistry. In its formal statement, the AAP “urges high schools and middle schools to aim for start times that allow students the opportunity to achieve optimal levels of sleep.”
Less than half of high school students feel positively about their college and career readiness, according to a YouthTruth study. So students are graduating feeling unprepared for the world that high school graduation spits them out into, and thus our future workforce takes their first steps into the adult world blindly.
Considering 30 percent of college and university students drop out after just one year, as reported by College Atlas, it’s clear that the way high school is run isn’t effective for the way that students are physiologically composed, or for properly equipping them with all of the skills necessary to make it through college.
Everyone has something wince worthy they remember about high school. Don’t make your children or future children wince at crippling stress or missed college opportunities; let them wince at awkward dances and poorly timed zits, like a kid should.