Dear Mr./Mrs. President,
Upon being informed of this assignment, the main prompt to write to you about was our fears. The number one fear that instantaneously came to mind was with regard to school, and the fact that this generation’s students have no effective mechanisms to cope with the problems that arise from school related stress. The effects this has on students is real. The amount of pressure and anxiety from school can often be unbearable for children across the country, preventing them from becoming confident leaders in our society, causing them to become fragile creatures unable to deal with problems in their lives.
As was mentioned, the problem at hand is the stress related to school workload. Specifically, dealing with the amount of this stress, and how it has become impossible for students to manage. Our generation will soon be adults expected to be productive members of working society. My concern is that our country will become disfuctional as a result of students growing into adults ineffectively coping with the anxiety that affects their learning abilities, and capabilities to thrive as working individuals. Close to one year ago, New York University did a study on the strain of high school stress and the way students cope with this pressure. The line that hit me right off the bat was this: “there is growing awareness that many subgroups of youth experience high levels of chronic stress, to the extent it impedes their abilities to succeed academically, compromises their mental health functioning, and fosters risk behavior.” This quote from the study shows that the worry of students has a larger effect than most people believe, changing student’s functioning abilities and even changing their behavior. Now, even though most teachers or school evaluators could argue that the work assigned in schools has the purpose of teaching students the value in organization, however, they do not see what else goes on in children’s lives; they have no sense of limits.
After reading other examples of letters to you, Mr./Mrs. President, it became clear to me that I was not the only person focussing your attention on this issue. It was clear to me that not only do large amounts of homework hurt students my age, but also younger students. From the website, letters2thepresident.org, a fourth grader recently described that his life at this point in time should be filled with fun and friends, and not yet at a level of stress that makes school unenjoyable for him. A 5th grade girl writes about helping around her family's house and barn, all while trying to balance dance as well as her schoolwork, noting that it is difficult to organize all at once. The fact that younger children are beginning to be “affected by the plague” (that is the unmanageable amount of work) schools send home with their students is an alarming fact that needs to lead to change. The earlier children develop symptoms of stress and anxiety, the earlier it could lead to disorders in their lives, making it even harder to survive the education plans we have set up for them. This is a downward spiral of cause and effect, that could be ended with a simple evaluation of the amount of work assigned and material expected to be learned in school.
To continue, most students experience levels of stress that are equal to the stress measured in patients with anxiety in insane asylums in the 1950s. Does that frighten you? It provokes fear in most parents trying to involve themselves in the movement against the emotional and physical strain of excessive homework. Most people would not consider their children or students “insane”, but it comes close to that when you look at a regular daily schedule from an average teen. An article from the Washington post says that a student would have “freakouts, as a consequence of a frenetic schedule, which last year included three Advanced Placement classes, a part in the school musical that required frequent rehearsals sometimes stretching until 10 p.m., a regular babysitting job, participation in both a school and church chorus, membership in a club for students interested in business, a volunteer weekend gig, SAT prep classes, driver training and homework that averaged three hours a night.” The schedule of an involved teenager is stressful enough as it is, but with the addition of school, including tests and homework each day and night, everything becomes a bit overwhelming. At this point, personal examples begin to come to mind. The article from the Washington Post was written by a concerned mother, having difficulty grasping the constant attention her daughter must supply to her schedule. After speaking with my family, calculations from a personal perspective became clear, including:
6:00 - wake up/get ready for school
7:00 - leave for school, which begins at 7:20
7:20-2:20 - school
2:45 - start homework, which averages around 3-4 hours each night, including studying
6:30 - dinner
7:00 - orchestra rehearsal/piano lessons/practice instruments (or for others, sports or after school activities)
9:30 - orchestra rehearsal ends
10:00 - rest of homework
11:30/12:00 - go to sleep
This schedule doesn’t look quite as demanding as the other student’s, however, after close examination, I questioned: where is the free time? Yes, most people could handle this full of a schedule once in a while, but continuously, every day? I would assume that a number of these days in a row would have considerable damage on most citizens in our society, let alone the 13-17 year olds in our generation who are actually put to this test. Along with that, researchers have proved that the developing brain of a teenager requires at least 8 hours of sleep, or around 9-10 hours for healthy growth. With this schedule, the most sleep I get is around 6 hours. The effects this has on me, and others in the same situation is horrendous; homework doesn’t always get finished, I am unable to put forth my best effort, and my grades go spiraling down. This is where I call you to action, Mr./Mrs. President.
This is a complicated issue. There are many varied opinions; most coming from adults. They say things such as “you wouldn’t have to stay up late if you finished your homework right after school” or “if you hadn’t spent so much time on your phone, you could be done by now.” The reason this makes me so upset is that these statements couldn't be further from the truth. The only reason we have to check our phones is simply to see if there have been any updates in gradebooks, or to see if friends have responded to texts asking them if they could help with some homework, or even to check email accounts to see if any other assignments have been given out (yes, this has happened before). The cycle is never-ending. Everything, mostly problems in my life, relate back to the loads of homework and studying that I am drowning in.
The solution to this problem isn’t something as simple as never assigning homework. It’s helping teachers understand that the homework they give out in class is not the only homework that students will have that day. It’s also publishing more articles about the stress of school, providing support, and raising awareness of the problems that affects students not only now, but later on in life as well. If a strong authority figure such as yourself could get this message across to parents and teachers all over the country, the issues students deal with regarding school related stress could be reduced. Thank you for your support, I hope to encourage you to make a change in the way students are impacted by their school life.
Sincerely, Emily R
Boodman, Sandra G. "Too-Busy Teens Feel Health Toll." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 15 July 2008. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
Communications, NYU Web. "NYU Study Examines Top High School Students' Stress and Coping Mechanisms." NYU Study Examines Top High School Students' Stress and Coping Mechanisms. NYU, 11 Aug. 2015. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
Gonchar, Michael. "Are You Stressed About School?" The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Oct. 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.