On Education

Written by Kash Jain, founder, 6/20/2019.

As we have now moved past the two weeks of drudgery and frantic last-minute studying that are testing weeks for AP courses, it is the perfect time to start a conversation about one of the most pressing issues facing our nation: education.

Most American high school students can attest that our educational system is in shambles. The CDC recommends that teenagers get 8-10 hours of sleep every night, yet 72.7% of high school students do not reach this benchmark.¹ Students spend 6-7 hours a day in school, have after-school extracurriculars and sports, and then go home and complete copious amounts of homework.

This sort of schedule has its consequences, one of which is incredibly high levels of stress. The American Psychological Association has unveiled something that is both unprecedented and concerning: teenagers are facing higher levels of stress than adults, far exceeding the stress levels that are considering to be healthy.² The many effects of stress will continue to impact students for years, even more so if said stress is left unaddressed.

This sort of schedule is meant to prepare us for “the real world.” It’s meant to allow us to reach our maximum learning potential and to give us a taste of adulthood. So, one would expect that American high school students are progressively learning and are incredibly successful — after all, stress is often a tradeoff for immense success, is it not?

The truth couldn’t be further from this idealistic perception. While American higher education is still the greatest in the world, our secondary schools lag far behind most other developed nations. We don’t even meet our own benchmarks. The National Assessment of Educational Progress — one of the more acclaimed gauges of students academic ability in America — reports that students fail abysmally to reach proficiency in any subject. Only 12% of 12th grade students have achieved proficiency in U.S. History. 50% proficiency is not met in any subject; the closest is 42% in economics.³ The SAT — the most widely administered test to high school students — reveals a similar trend. College Board, the organization behind this exam, reported that only 47% of the class of 2018 met both the math and evidence-based reading and writing benchmarks.

However, other nations notorious for high levels of stress amongst secondary school students — such as Hong Kong, China, and South Korea — see strong results. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) reveals that America lags far behind both our allies and high-stress nations in testing results; our scores meet the OECD average for reading and science but we are below average in mathematics.⁵ This leaves us to conclude that while we have a high-stress schooling system, we aren’t seeing the same results that other high-stress schooling nations see. Our high-stress system is, in essence, worthless — especially considering that nations with more progressive educational systems, such as Finland and Canada, perform significantly better.

Allow me to repeat that: we are subjecting our students to absurdly high levels of stress for borderline average results. This is, to be frank, completely illogical.

As high school students, we are in the most critical developmental stage of our life. These few years mold us into the adults we ultimately become, and having high levels of stress and minimal amounts of sleep leads us wandering into the ‘real’ world exhausted, confused, and at a complete loss as to how to navigate adulthood.

These stressed, unconfident, and underperforming high school students will become stressed, unconfident, and underperforming members of the workforce and — more importantly — people. We must avoid this.

So what do we do?

That’s a difficult question. However, we can undoubtedly advocate for legislation to at least fix the obvious flaws in the system.

It is crucial that schools instill in young children a love of learning. Elementary school students must have learning coupled with fun, something often found in the form of recess. In response to Florida schools getting rid of recess, Florida parents fought to enact legislation guaranteeing 20 minutes of recess to all elementary school students.⁶ Multiple studies⁷ have shown that recess helps students behave well in class and excel in academics. It may be in our best interests to fight for federally mandated recess or, at the very least, push for legislation in states where recess is threatened.⁸

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Keep an eye on our policy proposals page. We are, of course, open to proposals from readers and anyone else who wishes to make a change.

The American education system has been a raging dumpster fire for too long.

Change is coming. Be a part of it.


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