The End of the Unforgettable Summer

10/31/2011 09:59 am ET | Updated Dec 31, 2011

I lay in bed unable to sleep on the last night of summer. I find myself reflecting on the past two and a half months and the year to come. What I found is an unfulfilled mildly enjoyable past and future.

When thinking of summer as a teenager one thinks of days running around with friends, summer loves, days by the beach, and freedom from the stresses of high school. Nowadays teens experience a much different reality. Instead of lazy days fooling around in the backyard as my father used to do, or days going to parties by the beach as my mother used to, I have spent the majority of my summer doing schoolwork and preparing for college apps. When I recall the last few months, I remember spending one-third of my summer studying for a math test to skip pre-calculus, fervently reading the 694 pages of The Fountainhead for my English class, and SAT studying intermixed with failed attempts to learn Portuguese.

Unfortunately, this is what summer has become to many people my age. I often hear, "Oh, that is only because you are taking hard classes" or "Only the top students do that." Then why is it my friend who is in almost all grade level classes spent six weeks of his 10-week summer in summer school? Not because he failed a class but, because of the pressure put on him to be in a higher-level math course. Another friend of mine who is an average student had to write three essays this summer and read a 700-page book.

Summer is no longer the easy-going summer you hear in songs or see in movies. The lazy summers of the past generations have gone. In fact hearing songs referencing the lively carefree days of summer saddens me greatly. I know that next summer I will probably be overcome with outrageous amounts of schoolwork and ridiculous amounts of college application preparation, and I, at least in my high school years, will never experience a truly unforgettable summer like those of my mother or father.

This leads one to question if schools are going a little too far by depriving us of our summers. It is not that the schools are necessarily forcing us to take summer classes or prepare for the SATs, but the standards these days are so high that not doing so would make you inferior to others in your class. I admit I do live in a suburban neighborhood with a very good school system and extremely competitive students. However, my friends in other areas around the country are having the same issues.

We, meaning adults and students, need to start questioning how much is enough. Where is the point where six hours of homework a night and weeks of summer work becomes excessive and extreme? With America falling behind in the rest of the world when is comes to education, it is clear these methods are not working. When considering education reform you must consider not only the grades of students, but also the mental health and quality of life students have, because I cannot believe devoting 90% of your time in your adolescent years to school is mentally healthy or enjoyable.

As the classic American summer of picnics, pools and fireworks is ending, teens are becoming unable to remember a truly great summer. You must think, is this craziness really worth it?