Automa-Teen

I read this article a few weeks back, and my heart went out to the author and her fellow classmates. Given that the average child is safer, smarter and more savvy than previous generations, how is it that any child can write the following of her educational experience?
We are not teenagers. We are lifeless bodies in a system that breeds competition, hatred, and discourages teamwork and genuine learning. We lack sincere passion. We are sick.
We, as a community, have completely lost sight of what it means to learn and receive an education.
Why is that not getting through to this community? Why does this insanity that is our school district continue?
……Now that I’m nearing the end of my academic career in Palo Alto, I’d like to nostalgically look back and remember how much fun I had growing up, learning, and being a teenager in our city.
I’m sorry to say I won’t be able to do that even in the slightest degree.
We lack sincere passion? We are sick? This is the youth of our country and they feel sick and passionless before the age of 18?
First off, I must commend this young woman for being aware enough to understand what is happening to her and her fellow students; disciplined enough to make a clear and cogent case for these issues; and organized enough to push her concerns onto the national table of discussion.
Second, I have to wonder where the adults of her community stand. If they are aware of such sentiments, then what do they intend to do about them? Do they even think the sentiment is valid?
Panning back onto the national stage, have the adults of our nation become so paranoid about their own fiscal lives that they are willing to sacrifice their children’s childhoods by maintaining an educational gristmill that is slowly becoming nothing more than an intellectual sweatshop? Have the adults of our nation exhausted all other answers?
What would Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford or Walt Disney think of the state of education now? Better yet, if you have some time, take a look at what Sir Ken Robinson thinks about the state of education.
Those who are regular readers of my column know that I’m all for experiencing struggle andfailure, and that I can’t condone taking the easy way out. However, I wonder, when did the educational system become such a Kobayashi Maru?
Personally, I had a great educational experience right up through college. Sure I went through awkward stages such as acne, body image, braces, glasses and 80’s haircuts, but I still had time to enjoy football, lacrosse, karate, socializing, homework and still get to bed by 10 o’clock at night.
Was it stressful at times? Sure, but nothing was so awful that I look back at my younger years with disdain. I also cannot recall anything noteworthy enough to make me feel that my educational experience was so easy that I didn’t feel prepared for the rigors of life.
Then there are the issues involving sleep, diet and exercise that affect everyone. What happens when lack of sleep, poor diet, extreme stress and less time for positive outlets are combined with poor lifestyle choices having to do with with sex, drugs and alcohol? When our basic needs are disrupted, it is more difficult for any of us to make positive lifestyle choices, and more likely that we will succumb to depression and suicidal thoughts.
For the sake of all children, I would suggest we take a harder look at the balancing act between education and the childhood experience. I don’t think anyone reading the above would want to feel like this student, nor would we want to read this coming from any of our own children.
I’d like to believe that this article, from Palo Alto, will become a battle cry that causes the trenches to be dug deep enough and wide enough that we don’t have to ever read here on TAP that local students feel the same way. If we are concerned enough to wrap our children up in all the latest safety gear for the physical risks they take on the athletic field, then we should also be willing to take a hard look at mitigating the mental health risks that children face on the academic field as well.

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