I am a Junior in high school. Right in the thick of it. I find myself in the midst of ACT Prep, studying for Physics and US History tests, playing tennis, participating in Model UN, leading in student government, writing, coding/making apps, building a food allergy related website and so on. That is a lot of stuff right there. The purpose of this article is not for me to list items for my resume. Rather, it is to get something straight. The majority of things that I am doing right now, at this very moment in time, are things that I would love not to be doing any more. At the beginning of my Junior year, I decided to try my best to focus on my top priorities. Over my end of year winter break, I read Peter Thiel's new book, Zero To One. The book offered me great insight on the educational experience. Throughout the book, Thiel explains the "Ideology of competition." He describes how "competition is an ideology-the ideology- that pervades our society and distorts our thinking" (35). I really found this quote to be quite profound.
As a student enrolled in an extremely competitive high school, surrounded by fiercely competitive peers, I would like to offer my perspectives on this with you all. I think that the sad truth of today's society is that we train our youth to join clubs and do everything solely for the purpose of adding more bullet points to the resume. People try to get the edge any way they can. Best friends trash talk one another behind closed doors. Kids in the know are backed by parents who demand the edge for their kids to receive certain positions both socially and extra-curricularly, thus enabling a competitive boost. All this is for the purpose of gaining the few coveted positions which will complete the college resume. You can argue that this may not be the case for every member of the yearbook, school newspaper staff, student government or Model UN. It is my opinion and from my personal experience that many students participate in certain activities because they want it to look good for their college application, and to attain a certain edge over others. It is not about getting a deeper meaning of the world in programs such as Model UN. It's all about the college resume. It's not the most horrible thing in the world to spend time on something solely to get into college. But without truly liking the activity? That's sad to me.
Passion is absent. Society should attempt to focus on instilling passion in students with regards to the activities that they choose to do, instead of forcing students to master the violin and join Model UN just because the college admissions officers will like it. The high school experience should be about what one likes, excels at naturally, and genuinely wants to do. One of my favorite moments in the book is when Thiel says, "We teach every young person the same subjects in mostly the same ways, irrespective of individual talents and preferences" (36). Thiel is absolutely correct. One hundred percent. Why should we all have to take the same ACT or SAT test, if we all have different learning styles and strengths? Why should we all be measured up against each other in the same way like this? It seems wrong. It seems like a process that needs to be rethought and redesigned. From taking the ACT, to doing another boring extracurricular, excitement and passion are slowly evaporating. To play the devil's advocate, yes, one can argue that these things are crucial to the student's growth, and will be instrumental in future success. But does doing things EVERY DAY simply for the purpose of resume building seem logical? This past year, I have tried my personal best and put a lot of my free time into learning to code and making IOS apps, skills not taught in my school. This is because I have a passion for it. I want to live my life the way that I want to, not the way that looks good on my resume.
To the parents reading this article, instill passion in your child. Allow them to focus on that passion. My parents often tell my siblings and me to "find a passion and become an expert at something. Find something which really interests you, master something. Be a good person, be kind and be inclusive."
And to the students, get excited. Please. Do something you actually want to do, and are not forced to do. As Steve Jobs said at his 2005 Stanford commencement address, "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" Choose what you do with passion and purpose. Live your life.