THE BLOG
11/12/2012 09:11 am ET Updated Jan 12, 2013

Don't Take My Stress Away

Jack and David are members of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.

I came to Stuyvesant to be sleep-deprived, I came here to be pressured, I came here so that I would have enough work to keep me up throughout the night. It may not have been as much of a craving for every student, but all of us chose to attend Stuyvesant High School knowing that it is one of the most notoriously rigorous schools in the country with one of the most intense workloads. We came knowing there would be stress. It was part of the sacrifice we made when we decided we wanted to pursue a top-notch education. And yet, over the past decade, a disturbing trend in administrative policy making has surfaced -- the school has begun to institute policies in the name of "'reducing stress," which are negatively impacting our educational opportunities and have the potential to weaken our status as an academic powerhouse.

The administration has brought up proposals that include but are not limited to: preventing students from taking more than one language, getting rid of select elective classes, and even cutting the schedule down to nine periods. While these proposals don't always reach fruition, the fact that the administration is considering policies that take away opportunity from Stuyvesant students is nothing short of insulting. These policies reflect an administrative shift from an "improving the student education" outlook to a "reduction in the name of stress" outlook. In fact, I can think of few policy proposals which have actually improved the Stuyvesant education and promoted academic progress. Instead, administrators simply work to reduce stress and competition, neglecting to consider the toll this will take on the education of the student body.

The negative effects of creating policies for the sake of reducing stress are twofold. First, many of these policies are created and disseminated solely by the bureaucratic bodies that created our stress in the first place. The policies therefore aren't representative of the student body and often result in an adverse effect on student stress. Second, these policies negatively affect and limit our academic development. It is a shame that the school attempts to weaken the workload, competition and pressure, the very aspects of Stuyvesant that are key contributors to our success as students and people.

If the purpose of school is to prepare students for life, we should be continually holding students to high standards so they will develop mechanisms to handle the pressure. Cutting school stress won't help anyone in the long run, as students are bound face pressure later in their lives. It is best that we learn how to handle it at a young age and in a lower risk environment. By reducing work intensity, Stuyvesant is only hurting students by making us less prepared for college and beyond.

Moreover, the fact that the administration is focusing so much attention on ineffective stress reduction policies distracts them from dealing with real issues, like working to improve our education through new innovative, modern programs. In fact, analyzing the aforementioned policy proposals, not one offers new programs, nor do they represent the needs of the student body. Students never asked for any of these changes. The administration, and the press as well for that matter, have both become so absorbed by the petty stress issue that they've lost sight of the big picture. They've stopped trying to improve Stuyvesant and make it more rigorous, more dynamic, and more challenging, because they are too distracted by these minor issues.

I'd like to start seeing the administration creating, building, and innovating, not just cutting down and negatively impacting student education. Perhaps the administration should be creating more honors classes, or weighting AP classes in an effort to encourage participation in rigorous courses. The school needs to make a focused effort to improve curricula and remove ineffective teachers. In general, more attention should be given to constructive policies that will help improve the education and opportunities of Stuyvesant students. Finally, the school must reach out to the Student Union and Student Leadership Team to find out what the needs of the students are, instead of simply basing policy on the frequency of parent complaints.

When it comes down to it, the administration needs to overhaul the prevailing bureaucratic policies and start making the education of students the primary focus of the education system. This means continuing to give students a burdensome workload and maintaining high expectations, while at the same time teaching students how to deal with this increased pressure effectively. More work shouldn't mean more stress, but more skill development and academic growth behind the work. Teachers should cut down the amount of busy work and assign more dynamic papers and projects that would push us harder and give us more of a sense of intellectual accomplishment.

If we want to remain an academic powerhouse, the Stuyvesant administration must abandon all practices that restrict student opportunities to learn and instead focus their efforts on enacting policies which will improve academics at Stuyvesant and make the school more rigorous. It must, as it did in its heyday, actively promote competition and hard work, and prepare students for a life that will be nothing short of difficult.

This message applies to a far greater community. It applies to the American community: Stop focusing on stress reduction and resume focus on the education.

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