OPINION: “I’m Stupid!” – An American Guide on Education


For years, America’s education system has been regarded as one of the best in the world. By being one of the most developed nations in the world, we have the ability to spend our time and effort on things like professional teachers, new supplies, and safe buildings. We are nothing like the third-world countries, where the schools are as scarce as the food, and the life expectancy does not exceed 35 years. We, along with nations like Finland, South Korea, Japan, and England, have the privilege of being ranked one of the best countries for education. But what happens when the scantron sheets and number two pencils begin to harm students more than they help them? The results can be harsh, cold, and downright inhumane.

Political cartoon of a man with an apple for a head. Represents the connotation of the American Education system and its objectification of students.

Education is definitely important in order for one to have a good life, that is undeniable. You can’t expect to be a doctor or lawyer without proper schooling, and good grades. But in recent years, students have been facing extreme pressure not only from their parents, but from teachers, and even the government.

Ask any high school student (even the ones at MHS) how they feel about school. Most of them will say “it’s okay” or “I’m doing well”, but notice that nobody will say they love school. It is true, the social interaction is great; we love seeing our friends for five days per week. However, every other part of school is taking an incredible, unseen toll on students, in both America and around the world.

A main part of the problem is standardized testing. Nothing sends more chills up a student’s spine than hearing the word SAT or ACT or PSAT. In the past years, the intensity of these tests have increased at a steady rate, even to the point where students have become enslaved to the guide books and prep courses. We are told by everyone, the government, our parents, even our friends, that these tests are the most important exams we will ever take. If we fail them, we are doomed to live an unsuccessful, unhappy life.

In 2003, the state of New York increased the difficulty of its standardized tests, after much pressure from the state government. The results were horrendous. In K-8 schools, there were reports of students “giving up...slamming their heads against their desk...shouting ‘I’m stupid’.” In another school, students “complained about the long test hours...began vomiting…[and] lost control of their bowels” (the Daily Caller). In a statewide address, the secretary of education issued a letter to all parents in apology, and announced that the students would retake the exam without the difficulty enhancement. This issue was widely ignored by national press, for an unknown reason. It seemed like a story worthy of national headlines, right? Apparently not.

This may seem disturbing by American standards, but in other countries, especially Japan, China, and South Korea, the effects are much worse. Kindergartens in China have become so selective that a three year old boy once committed suicide after receiving a rejection letter in the mail. Students in Japan have become so immersed in the “book-to-brain” ideology that they get only three to four hours of sleep at night, and have been found to lack serious creative and critical thinking skills. According to Donald W. Farmer, who studied Asian education systems, “students are not rewarded for creative interpretation. The correct ‘answer’ is always the interpretation presented by the teacher.”

Standardized tests aside, students face a ridiculous amount of stress in their everyday classes as well. We are pressured into taking Advanced Placement classes for the sake of our GPA, and end up spending our weekends locked in our bedrooms, drowning in homework. Over vacations, teachers assault us with multiple projects and piles of assignments. A popular survey taken by psychologist Robert Leahy reveals that "the average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s." Many students across the country often deal with sleep deprivation, anxiety attacks, and moderate depression because of the overdose on education.

Perhaps the nation has forgotten that it is dealing with human beings. Students are not some beast of burden you can load pounds of work onto, or a machine that cannot feel. Is it really worth all the stress and devastation, so that America can hold the coveted title of “Smartest Nation”? In an imperfect world where perfection is so highly sought after, maybe we need to take a look at things through a student’s point of view.

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