In February, 2019 a Pew survey found that 70 percent of teens say anxiety and depression is a “major problem” among their peers, and an additional 26 percent say it’s a minor problem. One key source of this increased angst are the stresses that students face at schools -- including the challenges of keeping up their academic standing. Teachers, counsellors and clinical therapists offer some sobering reports:
It’s so hard for the kids who are already maybe perfectionists, and they’re getting the first B in their lives and they’re fearful it’s going to prevent them going to college, any college, never mind their dream college. And they don’t want to disappoint their parents. (Flannerly, NEA Today)
Now we're measuring everything. School is putting so much pressure on them with the competitiveness ... I've seen eighth graders admitted as inpatients, saying they have to choose a career! (Amy Ellis Nutt, Washington Post)
Students were afraid they weren’t taking enough Advanced Placement (AP) courses, that they weren’t getting the best grades, that they wouldn’t get into the best colleges, and that they weren’t pleasing their parents. The result: a stress level that shouldn’t be felt by an adult, let alone a 16- or 17-year-old high school student. (Tim Walker, NEA Today)
This state of affairs is the inevitable consequence of a fundamentally misguided understanding of the true purpose and potential of schools. We are doing damage to our kids and robbing them of their unrealized potential because we have unthinkingly accepted the assumptions of the past without having the courage to imagine a better future. The time has come for us -- parents and educators alike -- to re-examine what we really want out of our schools, and how we are going to get there.
The Epidemic of Anxiety Among Today’s Students by Mary Ellen Flannerly, March 29, 2018 (NEA Today) http://neatoday.org/2018/03/28/the-epidemic-of-student-anxiety/
Why kids and teens may face far more anxiety these days, by Amy Ellis Nutt, Washington Post, May 10, 2018 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/05/10/why-kids-and-teens-may-face-far-more-anxiety-these-days/?utm_term=.c5594d609676
Most U.S. Teens See Anxiety and Depression as a Major Problem Among Their Peers by Juliana Menasce Horowitz and Nikki Graf, Pew Research Center (Feb 20, 2019) https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/02/20/most-u-s-teens-see-anxiety-and-depression-as-a-major-problem-among-their-peers/
Educators Look to Parents and Communities To Help Reduce Student Stress by Tim Walker, Sept 16, 2018 (NEA Today) http://neatoday.org/2016/09/16/reducing-student-stress/
Dr. Ted Spear is the founding Principal of two independent schools in British Columbia, Canada. Using research on contemporary educational innovation, and drawing on 25 years of teaching and administrative experience in public and independent schools, he is currently writing a book on the future of grade school education.