Kids Are Stressed in School? Good.

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Not to be the image of the rough old guy snarling at sensitive children, but if this, from a Linda Borg in the Providence Journal, is actually meant to be news about which we’re supposed to be concerned, then perhaps we mostly need to be concerned about the sorts of people who think that this is news about which we’re supposed to be concerned:

Half of all public high school students in Rhode Island say school is quite stressful.

More than 70 percent say they frequently or almost always worry about grades.

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Sixty-three percent are really worried about things in their life.

Teenagers are living in a state of constant anxiety, according to a new survey from the R.I. Department of Education that gathered 83,000 responses from students in all grades, including 55,600 responses from grades 6 through 12.

School should be stressful for students — not unduly, out of proportion with the actual significance of any given matter, but as a general proposition.  Students ought to see their education as something that matters a lot and failure as something that can have real consequences.  And, moreover, failure in terms of grading ought to be a true possibility.

A central problem of our modern society is summed up very well in the apparent inclination to address stress by removing stressors rather than dealing with them.  And, no, that doesn’t mean learning how to express your feelings to a person who’s stressing you out so that he or she can change his or her behavior (or be forced to do so by some authority).  It doesn’t mean reworking a school system’s means of testing and holding students accountable so they can never feel like they’ve fallen short.

It means coming to an understanding of our lives that can accommodate stress and turn it into motivation.

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  • Joe Smith

    It’s useful to look at the actual survey question as opposed to the lazy (or soundbite) presentation in the media. There are five responses, ranging from almost never to almost always. 23% – or almost one quarter – say almost never.

    so maybe that should be the headline – 25% of RI students have a carefree school life!

    The “almost always” percent is 8. If you look at the bottom two (almost/frequently), it’s only 20%. In other words, 80% of students have just occasional to minimal worry about school.

    Where’s that headline???

    Oh..but let’s add girls are more nervous than boys..maybe that’s why they do better academically..hmm

    Finally, the question was “nervous” not stressed. One would hope students would be a bit nervous about a test, challenging course, or just the navigation of intellectual/social/emotional aspects of growing up.

    Much ado about nothing..but it makes for a nice headline..

  • BasicCaruso

    What nonsense… as if fear is the best way to motivate students to learn, as if the only way for some to succeed in school is for others to fail. Process improvements experts have long know this to be a recipe for disaster, but that won’t stop the self-proclaimed education experts from touting the “benefits.”

    “One is born with intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity, cooperation, curiosity, joy in learning. These attributes are high at the beginning of life, but are gradually crushed by the forces of destruction. These forces cause humiliation, fear, self-defense, competition for gold star, high grade, high rating on the job. The lead anyone to play to win, not for fun. They crush out joy in learning, joy on the job, innovation. Extrinsic motivation (complete resignation to external pressures) gradually replaces intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity.”

    – W Edwards Deming, “The New Economics: For Industry, Government, Education”

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