Opinion: Pressures of high school lead to political apathy
March 9, 2017
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You want to start a club, but you don’t have the time. There’s a BLM rally downtown today, but you dare not miss a test about civil rights in history. You just got home after a grueling swim meet, and you can’t wait to scour the Internet for exciting community service opportunities – yet you’re exhausted to the bone, not to mention that you have four hours of homework awaiting you in your backpack.
As liberating as the institution of education is, high school can often feel like a cage. Wayland High School is no exception; though we’re fortunate enough to receive a world-class education, characterized not only by supportive faculty but also by an endless cache of clubs, community projects, and internships, stress and exhaustion permeate every corner of our school. This prevents us from getting involved in the activities that are truly important to us; academic culture renders us apathetic.
So where does fixing this problem begin? Obviously, part of curing apathy is dispelling the all-too-common myth that, as high schoolers, we are simply “too young” to do something that’s meaningful to us. But to most people, the idea that students are capable of great things is common knowledge; I know from experience that the vast majority of my peers are replete with ideas, drive, and maturity. Then why else does Wayland’s student body seem, at times, to be so complicit in the flaws of our system, unwilling to stand up and fight back in support of the issues they’re passionate about?
I believe that the school environment is to blame. Most of us are so bogged down by daily homework, frequent papers, and never-ending testing that holding significant time commitments that don’t contribute to our grades trades off with sports, sleep, and even mental health. Sure, students vary in what they prioritize, but the fact of the matter is that society tells us that sleep and sports can be safely sacrificed, while good grades are non-negotiable. When so much seems to hinge on the letters on our transcript, it becomes difficult to leave the classroom and enter your community at 2:15; instead, school seems to constantly shadow you.
And it’s not just grade culture that dampens our passions. Starting a club, organizing a fundraiser or running an event at Wayland High School is a long and arduous process, one which usually involves hours upon hours of paperwork and negotiation. Anyone who has encountered the school’s regulations can tell you that students performing even simple tasks like donating money to a charity are treated with presumed guilt, subject to the assumption that they’re destructively embezzling money, rather than constructively helping people. Examples of this range from the school committee approval required for a student activities account to the time and paperwork needed to make any sort of transaction.
There are two ways to begin to fix this problem. First, it’s imperative that teachers at Wayland High School find ways to augment students’ creative thinking skills and entrepreneurial ability by deemphasizing testing and rote memorization and emphasizing things like extra credit involvement, participation, and field study. Secondly, put simply, administration doesn’t do a good job of meeting with students, treating their efforts seriously, and helping students – instead of hindering them – in the process of getting change through the school committee. To garner student activism, Wayland High School’s should work hard to reverse these attitudes, be receptive to students, and perhaps, where possible, relaxing extreme regulations and bureaucracy.
This student body is the next generation of change-makers. In an increasingly politicized America, it’s our responsibility to know and engage in the role we play in our communities. But as we’d like to think we can do it alone, it’s on Wayland High School – the place where we spend the majority of our adolescent lives – to help us do this.