Students being pushed to the brink of excellence

by Lindsey Hubbart

With many of our schools failing, the issue of education equality has become extremely important in America. However, we have overlooked another important educational issue: many students are being pushed far beyond their limits.

This issue really hits home for me. Back in middle school, a girl named Devon Marvin was my best friend until we lost touch after she moved to California. This summer, I decided that I wanted to reconnect with her, so I searched for her online. Shockingly, I discovered that she had committed suicide in 2008. I was heartbroken; I could not imagine how the wonderful, hilarious, happy-go-lucky Devon that I once knew decided to end her life.

She did not even leave a note. The only thing that was noticed was that she had failed her math exam that week. Her mom told the local paper that, “The only thing I can think of is that she had this internal pressure, and she was torn up about this math grade. This child was so successful on so many fronts, and then there was this stupid math grade.”

A documentary titled “Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture,” focuses on the idea of putting too much pressure on students to succeed and Devon’s story is used as a focal point.

Vicki Abeles, the creator of the movie, cites multiple reasons why students are feeling the pressure, and describes the detrimental effect that it can have on them. For example, students are advised to take as many Advanced Placement classes as possible.

I certainly felt that pressure when I was in high school; I was constantly told to take as many AP’s as I possibly could if I wanted to have a shot at getting accepted into college.

An AP biology teacher in a New York Times video op-ed on AP classes, said, “The course is a runaway train. There’s no way we can cover all of the material in one year.”

This puts an exorbitant amount of pressure on students to cram as much material as possible just to regurgitate it on the test, especially when they are taking multiple AP classes.

The students also have pressure to perform well on “high-stakes” standardized tests, according to Abeles.

Too much stress can have detrimental effects on students’ health. For example, in the video about AP classes, students claimed they stayed up until two or three in the morning every night to finish their homework.

James Maas, a sleep expert at Cornell, said, “Every single high school student I have ever measured in terms of their alertness is a walking zombie.”

According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 8 percent of high school students get adequate sleep.

College students feel extreme stress as well. The American College Counseling Association surveyed college counselors on results of stress.

They found that “more than three out of four [college counselors] reported an increase in crises in the past five years requiring immediate response, 42 percent noted an increase in self-injury, and 24 percent have seen an increase in eating disorders.”

In severe cases, this stress can even lead students to take their own lives, as Devon did.

The school system must help develop productive members of society, not stressed out zombies merely focused on academic success.

Hubbart is a sophomore majoring in economics. Comments can be sent to

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