Photo by Isabel Ravenna
Calabasas High School

Attention, Educators: Students Want Change

In a world where schools are becoming more competitive and standards are higher than ever, students are trying to survive the pressure of maintaining a balanced social life while preparing themselves for a successful future. Many struggling to find a happy-medium express that they are not content with the environment and system of the American education.

“The education system is setting kids up for failure,” junior Carmel Abramov said.

Adolescents, whose brains are yet to fully develop, are discouraged by their grades.

The school system is built to create talented youth into skilled adults, however, if students are led to constant dismay by the system itself, how is one expected to appreciate their education with determination?

“They categorize students, expecting that every one of them learn the same way. Testing should not be an indicator of one’s potential or worth. People learn in different ways and it’s an injustice to students to force them to get their education under these conditions,” Abramov said.

Some students report that another factor to this cause is that teachers are oftentimes unfit for their job making gaining an education difficult.

“So many teachers do an awful job,” junior Claire Fairlough said. “I feel embarrassed to ask questions because they make you feel stupid. Not to mention, the majority of teachers only assign busy-work, not even for a grade.”

Fairlough, who attends a college preparatory school is one of many who is ashamed to raise her hand in class due to the learning environment. This would be problematic, for the purpose of school is to ask questions and gain insight.

Students across the nation admit to having developed this complex due to the atmosphere their instructors allow in the classroom.

“Our low quality teachers due to the lack of incentive for talented people to teach because of their low salaries makes school inadequate,” junior Veronica Demornay said.

Many students advocate that there are too many teachers who do not show enough interest in their job and/or do not do it well. While the standard for what makes a “good teacher” is unclear, who the professor is makes a world of difference in a student’s schooling experience.

A school should not be a place for adults who did not succeed in their goals to resign, but for experienced and talented adults to inspire the upcoming generations daily.

In a poll of 143 students, 63 percent attend public school while the other 37 percent attend private schools. In the classroom setting, college, textbooks and the importance of the hierarchy among university bumper stickers are glorified. Surrounded by this environment during the majority of a student’s life, the percentage of the youth who will not be able to graduate wearing a cap decorated in their new school’s spirit color is unsure of what to do next.

“I think the American school system doesn’t teach kids what they need to be successful adults without a college degree,” junior George Murray said. “Unfortunately, equal opportunity doesn’t exist and not everyone has the opportunity to go to college straight out of high school, leaving many people unprepared.”

While school can force students to memorize their times tables and ABCs in a matter of years, many are muddled in the decision of what to do when these skills are no longer enough.

“We have to break the stigma that this decided number of years of school and college is necessary to succeed in life,” junior Carlos Del Castillo said.

Many students say that school subjects are not important ones to be lectured upon for up to eight hours a day. Graduation from American high schools, depending on state residency requires differentiating numbers of years of science, english, history and math. The argument is that those who already know what they plan to major in should not have to waste their time learning about seemingly irrelevant topics of which they are uninterested.

Students also wonder why a class like chemistry should be mandatory, but some such as finance or investments should not.

“Instead of educating the youth on topics most will never use, teach us about the world,” Del Castillo said. “Teach us taxes, how to buy a house, lease a car and how to succeed in our economy.”

Not only do students express their desire in being more prepared for the world they are thrown into after high school and college, but their grievances also include adding courses for things they have an interest in.

“If my school didn’t have AME (Arts, Media and Entertainment Program), I would hate it,” senior Gracie Bellissimo said. “School systems should emphasize kids’ interests rather than learning random things we won’t ever use in the professions we want.”

Honors U.S. History, CP U.S. History and World History teacher Adam Weinstein said, “Oftentimes, students’ opinions are a bit short sighted. Even though they may not be interested in a high school subject now, I think it’s important for a person to learn the basics of everything. When a student struggles in a subject, their learning to overcome that obstacle may be the necessary lesson they learn.”

Weinstein’s point regarding the subject stems from his experience as a history teacher because “if a student refuses to learn about history they’re doing an injustice to themselves as as American citizen and their community, since the point is to educate Americans in order prevent the past from reoccurring,” Weinstein said.

The significance of topics such as biology or European literature on the other hand, tend to be less relevant to students in general.

In a poll of 145 students, 81 percent said they feel overwhelmed with stress caused by school. American students who spend up to eight hours a day, five days a week are easily emotionally/mentally impacted by the environment of which they spend most of their time.

“The constant pressure to prove myself to people by meeting standards that have been set entirely by the education system has completely taken away all confidence I had in myself,” Abramov said. “It takes opportunities away from students who struggle with school but have the grit and desire to learn and be successful.”

Campuses need to be a positive and healthy place for young people to spend their time. Emotional and mental responses are often to stress triggered by overwhelming amounts of schoolwork or treatment by classmates and teachers.

“School makes me hate myself. Getting less than straight As makes me feel like a complete idiot and my teachers make me feel horrible about myself,” junior Alexa Hirsch said.

In a survey of 137 students, 80 percent said that they only study in order to get the desired grade rather than eagerness to gain knowledge. In a setting where students should want to put effort into gaining an education, many are unmotivated.

“Everything in school is taught in a boring linear way that makes students dislike learning,” Demornay said.

For generations, teachers have failed to get through to students, but the amount of unhappy students, desperate to do well in school is reportedly overwhelming for many.

Students are developing mental illness disorders and resorting to methods such as drug consumption in order to succeed academically.

Hirsch says that “her school does nothing to help mental illness,” and Demornay relates, “important topics such as mental illness and sexual health are never addressed and when attempted by schools’ curriculums, it is an inadequate joke.”

In a poll of 150 students, 25 percent admit to resorting to drugs in order to test confidently or complete a night’s worth of homework.

“I’m on Ritalin for my AP test that’s in a few hours,” senior Alexander Chesney said. “I literally have to take drugs to try to get a better grade. The scariest part is the effectiveness that drugs like Ritalin and Adderall are when used for studying.”

Besides this impact that many American schools have on students, some are unimpressed by what it is worth, for many believe that school has become a systematic way of making money.

“The school system is inherently geared against the truly gifted and the issue persists more so in the ranking systems,” junior David Shats said. “For example, public schools are rated by the amount of students in AP classes instead of the pass rate. This is precisely why schools are removing honors classes — to push more students into advanced classes, by over, saturating AP courses with students who do not deserve to be there. This means slowing down the curriculum, granting more educational aids and driving advanced students down.”

Many are convinced that the school system is no longer about educating students, but making as much money as possible through books, supplies, tuitions and more.

Del Castillo said, “it’s all about getting money out of kids and families. Everything costs money because you ‘need’ all of this to go to college which is the most expensive part of it all, leaving students and families with an unspeakable amount of debt to spend years off.”

Whether or not the American school system is providing a strong education or holding the youth back from the most important factors of life, the students have unapologetically spoken.

“The American school system is absolutely trash,” Demornay said. “We are offered inadequate supplies for an education and this needs to change.”

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