Boston Legal takes on high school stress

Phenomenal episode of Boston Legal on ABC tonight where a parent sued her daughter’s high school for failing to regulate stress levels. It raises some great issues of where to lay blame for the massive stress high school students face, such as:

The hype around the admissions process is premised on an assumption that getting into some particular school or set of schools increases student success rates (measured, I suppose, by job placement, income, and admission to graduate programs), however every study I can find on the subject says that this is entirely false. So if we KNOW that the school you attend isn’t correlated with success (that it correlates with your grades, your family income, and your excitement about/connection to your college – not which school you attend), why is there an apparent obession with students taking massive loads of AP, IB, clubs, service, tests, etc etc etc.?

Do students and parents feel the loads are really educationally beneficial? Or is it just about bragging rights? How many college courses do you really need to get done BEFORE you’re in college? Do, as the show suggested tonight, the high schools have some obligation to limit students’ courseloads and involvements? And would that even be possible? Is the push for more and more related to the increasingly lax attitude towards cheating and plagarism?

Of course, I’m a guilty guilty guilty part of the system. Just like our fellow competitive institutions, Mason weighs course load strength in our admissions decisions, and we use extra-curricular involvement as a measure of leadership and motivation. Is there any way we can value these factors without encouraging the kind of excess that prevents students from actually ENJOYING their time in high school?

My advice: if you genuinely have an interest and aptitude that guides you towards a massive AP/IB courseload, then have at it! But I really truly believe that you can find tremendous success without forcing yourself to be miserable. Let’s face it – high school has PLENTY of stress and drama without any help from the rest of us. Great colleges will admit not just hyper-involved perfect students, but also students whose success comes through balance.


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