Kids Under Pressure: How School Has Gotten Too Competitive
Last week, I read an article on The Atlantic's website titled "My Daughter's Homework Is Killing Me," and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. In the piece, Karl Taro Greenfeld is concerned that his 13-year-old daughter, Emme, is doing way too much homework. As an experiment, he tries to do Emme's homework for a week.
Though I enjoyed reading about Greenfeld's attempts to complete the homework assignments, I was more intrigued by the lengths that Greenfeld's daughter took to ensure that she did her homework fully every night. "Some evenings, when we force her to go to bed, she will pretend to go to sleep and then get back up and continue to do homework for another hour," Greenfeld writes.
I remember the similar lengths that I took to complete my homework in middle school. During religious school, I would do my algebra homework underneath my Hebrew worksheets. I studied between dance routines during recitals, a trick I learned from other children, older and wiser.
In his article, Greenfeld expresses his belief that teachers should give less homework, especially less busy work. I agree with that; the amount of time I spent doing pointless assignments is impossible to calculate. However, the larger issue that Greenfeld's article touches on goes beyond homework struggles.
The pressure to compete with other kids for the best grades can be enormous and it is a serious problem. When I was in middle school, we were often graded on a bell curve. You did not have to do well on an exam; you had to do better than the other students. After our tests were returned, the teacher posted the curve on the wall so you could see where you ranked in relation to others. Though there were no names on the sheet, students would spread rumors about who scored what. Do we really need preteens to feel more self-conscious?
I am all for healthy competition and encouraging children to do well in school, but some schools have taken it too far. When Greenfeld wonders if his daughter will ever have the time to read a book for fun, I cringe, because I know his question is valid. There is often no time built in for unstructured personal enjoyment. There has to be a way to allow kids to get away from the stress of school, at least every once in awhile.
The teachers are not the only ones to blame, however. Parents are responsible for pressuring their kids as well. A recent Slate article brought to light the increasing trend of "redshirting" kids in kindergarten. A full 9 percent of parents wait until their child is 6-years-old before sending him to school. Though in certain cases this is a justified move, in many situations children are being held back solely because parents want to give them an academic, social, and athletic advantage over the other kids in the grade. Imagine the expectations! Slate calls this era "an age of parenting as a competitive sport." My question is: When the game's over, who really wins?
What do you think? Does your child feel too much pressure to succeed in school?
Image: A teen school boy studies hard via Shutterstock