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Advanced Pressure: The Dangers Of Educationally Influenced Mental Illness

Lauren Gilman

Lauren Gilman

AP Pressures Students into Dangerous Mental Situations

Lauren Gilman, Peninsula High School

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“AP classes cause me to have mental breakdowns frequently due to the pressure of passing AP exams to get college credits. And on top of that, my regular classes assign busy work, because they have no clue how to teach another human being an important topic,” Lydia Morse, a sophomore at Peninsula High School said.

Looking back on all the negative effects of Advanced Placement classes, does the stress seem to be worth it?

Millions of high school students in America enroll in Advanced Placement classes (rigorous college-level courses taught in high schools) each year, willingly signing up for copious amounts of stress and maladjustment. The Advanced Placement curriculum (AP), created by the College Board Organization, demands adolescents to obtain college-level knowledge through studying the textbook’s material and performing in an annual national test. This, in return, places superfluous amounts of stress, which, without proper resources (accessibility to psychotherapy and knowledge on managing stress), subsequently results in mental illnesses. The increase in AP participation directly correlates to the increase in depression. In fact, from 1980 to 2016, there’s a 95 percent increase of student participation in an AP classroom (Collegeboard.org). In the same time frame, according to the Nuffield Foundation, an organization founded for social health and research, the rate of teen depression has more than doubled. America’s youth are being thrown a plethora of stress and the detrimental effects are in full force.

At Peninsula, teens are crippling and falling under the weight of high school. Students are expected to be the smartest and take the hardest classes in order to be accepted into the best colleges, regardless of how their mental health compares. From a college’s perspective, taking rigorous classes, like AP, proves a student’s intelligence and willingness to work. Colleges expect teenagers to hold themselves to a standard of excellence that far exceeds what they’re capable of.

“As much as I love Peninsula, and I feel like this is a nationwide occurrence not just at our school, high schools do tend to push AP classes so much to the point where I think not only are AP classes stressful to those who take them, because of the workload and AP Test, but also those who aren’t taking them who don’t feel up to par or smart enough to enroll in these classes. In reality you don’t need to take AP classes in order to get into college, plenty of kids don’t, but sometimes that feels like what they’re saying,” Hailey Gauslin, a junior at Peninsula High School and part-time Running Start student said.

Sophomore year seems to be one of the hardest for students. Many pupils who’ve succeeded in base-level curriculum classes in the past overestimate their intelligence and ability to handle pressure. Those who push themselves to take AP classes without proper stress-management knowledge detrimentally result in failing grades and maladjustment.

Additionally, a major stressor seems to be the ample amounts of homework given to students enrolled in AP. On an average day, students may receive around one hour of homework per class. Paired with extracurricular activities, a social life, and obligations at home, this all amounts to be supererogatory.

“I think AP classes are good to be able to challenge yourself but I also think there should be a better balance between school and life. I have other classes with homework as well. Even though AP homework adds up to a max of four hours, combined with other classes, after school activities, and wanting to have downtime, it takes mainly all hours of day. I have a 7th period Korean class that can take anywhere from 1-3 hours a day. My doctor even recommended I take marijuana because of how stressed I am,” said Lexy Holden, a sophomore at Peninsula High School.

Corroborating on this idea of overwhelming students, Morse said, “Maybe tell teachers to stop worrying so much about their students in their own classes, and realize we each have five other classes, a home life, and a social life. Not using that as an excuse to be taken lightly or thrown around, but empathy should be an important aspect in a high school teacher due to our brains being very easily influenced in adolescence.”

Through looking at correlating increased depression among adolescents and Advanced Placement participation rates, and the factors that lead to the formation of mental illnesses, there is a direct attribution brought on by the American school system. How can this new decade of youth stop this formation of depression? Firstly, the integration of stress management programs into one’s school. Having this resource available to students provides necessary skills on dealing and handling with copious amounts of stress in a healthy way and allows an outlet for teens to come to. Peninsula has almost 2,000 students and only four counselors and one psychologist.

“Last year, I left a note every day for a week and I never got called in once and it’s been almost a year,” Molly Clark, a student at Peninsula said. It’s becoming coherently obvious that our counselors are overworked and stretched too thin for their responsibilities.

“I’ve written notes for counselors, and they’ve taken months to respond. I believe there should be 26 counselors, one for every letter and last name,” said Reagan Trim, sophomore attending Peninsula High School.

Another solution to this problem would be to give less homework to students and instead focus the energy of learning to inside the classroom. When looking at Finland, it is made known that they have assigned a fraction of homework to what American students are dealt. Students there are the highest national-academic average, implying that the amounts of homework given after school do not increase knowledge.

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