Education Memoir Parenting

Lessons on Slowing Down

Nearly every parent I know has wrestled with deciding how important it is to have their children take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Parents want their children to have all the opportunities they can get so that they can succeed and be happy in life. (If only happiness could be achieved that easily!) Meanwhile, kids feel the pressure and report feeling exhausted, unhappy and anxious.

People often ask me, as a person who has spent nearly twenty years in the classroom, what I think about AP classes. Should their child take this AP or that AP. And they are often surprised when I respond with a question: “Does your child love French? Because if he doesn’t love it, why would you want him to take the AP which is going to require so much of his time and energy?”

What people (and by people, I mean parents) do not seem to understand is that the demand of an AP class is designed to be similar to a 100-level college class. The difference is that, in high school, that class will likely meet every day – while in college, there is usually an “off-day” where students have time to read and generally better manage coursework.

In RACE TO NOWHERE, filmmakers Vicki Abeles and Jessica Congdon speak to educators, parents, tweens, and teens about the pressures they face academically and emotionally, and the physical toll these expectations exact. What results is a picture of a fractured educational system that pushes kids to become successful — but at a cost.

During the Post World War II Advanced Placement pilot program, AP courses were designed to draw the top students into a small class of other students who LOVED the material. In 1952, AP classes were designed to be small so teachers could move at an accelerated pace because of the students’ voracious love of the subject matter. The idea was excellent.

Of course, what has happened over time, is that parents have demanded that their children be allowed entry into AP classes because, these days, there is a warped race to create the best college application. (Believe me, parents want those AP’s on their college applications.) So AP class sizes have ballooned, and there is less one-on-one with teachers. And kids who had no business being in an AP in the first place struggle. Because AP classes are hard. Really hard. When the idea was created, I don’t think anyone from the Ford Foundation would have recommended that any one student take five AP courses.

I always tell parents that AP courses are not the be all/end all. When I say this, they look at me like I have five heads. Then they ignore me completely. (I’m telling you, parents don’t like to hear this.)

I truly believe that the point of education is for children to love to learn. When students are getting sick, when they arrive at college unprepared and unmotivated, there is a problem. Students who feel too much pressure to perform, burn out. Feeling the pressure to achieve, students self-medicate, turn to drugs and alcohol as an escape, and sometimes cheat to complete the ever mounting pile of assignments which need to finished – now! From my vantage point, I see kids who are over-scheduled and overtired.

School should be the place where our teens learn about balance. Schools that allow students to skip lunch periods so they can take five Advanced Placement courses have bought into the hype (or caved into parental pressure). And that is sad. Lunch should not be optional. Humans need to stop and eat healthy food (not a bag of chips) to provide their bodies with energy. I don’t care how many times a parent calls and says, “I want my son to take 5 APs.” Administrators need to grow a set and say, “I’m sorry, but we just don’t think that is beneficial to your child.” Students need help learning how to make healthy choices. Sometimes that means they need the school to shield them from demanding parents. And anyway, kids don’t have to be enrolled in a course to take AP tests: a really self-motivated kid who loves to learn should be able to access all the material he needs to prepare him/herself for any AP test.

For the love of Pete, I’m a Tiger Momma. I believe our children need to pick the things they do and do them well. But we need to help guide them to understand they cannot do everything. Our kids need to study hard – absolutely – but they also need to eat. They need to be able to go to the bathroom without worrying they are missing crucial information. And they need to be allowed to tune school out for a while so they can exercise and nurture friendships. They should not be running from this practice to that recital just be sitting on their asses in front of their computers every night.

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to take regular English, AP English, or  Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA English). At the time, SUPA was a college curriculum class taught by our own high school instructors who had been trained to teach the course. I worked my butt off in that class, and I did not always excel. I remember getting one paper back with a big fat “D” on it. (Maybe it was a “C,” but in my mind, I remember it as a “D.”) I also remember taking that paper to the library and weeping next to a huge potted plant. I had worked so hard on that paper. And English was the subject in which I was supposed to excel. I did not understand how I could have failed. My ego was battered, but my love for the subject matter made me want to figure things out. I busted my hump in that class. It was truly an amazing experience, and I believe it was the course that best prepared me for college.

When I think back on it, I cannot imagine how grueling it must put in that kind of work into every subject, every day. To me, taking all those APs seems utterly unnecessary. No one has ever asked me: “How many AP courses did you take in high school?” (Well, one pretentious fuck did, but it was after he had polished off an entire bottle of red wine himself.) In fact, many colleges don’t even accept AP credit anymore. It’s true.

So, my recommendation is this: If you’ve got a kid who is interested in some accelerated academic experience, have him/her enroll in a summer course at a real college. That looks good on college applications, too. And the credit might actually transfer somewhere, and it might help transition him or her to the realities of actual college life. Help your child live a balanced life. Have your kid go to summer camp, get a job, plant a garden, try something he/she has never done before. Not for the college application, just because.

In the United States, success has long meant making a lot of money. And the way to do this has traditionally meant attending a great college. But we need to redefine success for children. We have gotten caught up in this “race to nowhere,” as described by Abeles and Congdon. We need to teach our kids to do what they love – not pressure them into taking five AP classes because it will make them look good on paper.

In 2010, over 1.8 million students took over 3.2 million AP tests at about $87 bucks a pop. I’m no mathematician, but even I can tell that some people are taking more than one test. And I’d like to know five years down the line, where those kids are, and if they feel all that pain was worth it.

Check out this clip from the film below. Tell me you don’t want to see it!

35 thoughts on “Lessons on Slowing Down

  1. I taught AP US History and my students and I had very little success. You have only 3/4 of the year to finish the book because test is in early May. Had them do 1870-1900 over Winter Break on their own. You never know what they will ask on the essays and my experience was that they were very arcane and esoteric questions and I could not even write a credible answer. I really had them prepared in 1992. 500 years-Columbus-1492- a lock essay right? Not a drip re Columbus. Duval County up in Jacksonville dropped AP in favor of dual enrollment with a local college with the regular teacher teaching the course as an adjunct at the high school. The teacher designed his/her own exam based on the material covered following the AP test model of course. The college would grant 3 credit hours. I could never convince parents, the school board or the county social studies bureaucracy that getting 3 credit hours was better than getting AP credit which may or may not be accepted by any particular university. In addition many alleged correct answers could be disputed by historians based on diverse understandings of the same dynamic. On any given day at least 1/3 of my students would be absent: junior class pictures, early varsity sports days, yearbook, newspaper, science field trip, motivational speaker assembly, band recital, etc. On top of that the state competency test are given early in the year and the administration dictates that every class at all levels focus on basic skills with prepared activities and you can’t touch the AP texts for another 4 weeks.A third could never do homework because they worked evening jobs out of economic necessity coming from poor families. I got much more satisfaction working with the low level kids than the college bound for these reasons.

    1. Renee,

      Thank you so much for writing this blog and sharing this information. As a parent of a junior in high school, this has become my life in a nutshell. With thoughts and stresses about college on the horizon, my daughter is loading up with AP’s for next year, and at my urging her to slow down and take classes that interest her, rather than what will look good to colleges, she has told me that it is her choice to make and she can “handle” it. And I am sure she can. However, what and where will that get her??? Into a better college, possibly. A better job or career in the future? Doubtful. The ability to multi-task and handle stress? Maybe… but at what cost?

      I struggle with this “epidemic”, as it seems to be on the minds of all of my friends and all of the teens I deal with in my job as Youth Director at my temple. In the past week, I have had two separate experiences, with two different groups of teens, when the conversation turned to “what classes are you taking next year?” and “which Ap’s will look better on my college apps?”, etc.

      On the one hand, we want our kids to have the same or even better odds at getting into the university of their choice, and so we lead them to toward that activity or class that we perceive will give them an “edge.” On the other hand, it seems like it is NEVER enough! Even a child with a GPA of 4.5 and SATs of 1350 is not guaranteed a spot at Florida’s top university because it is so competetive, and colleges are looking at the “whole child” and what he or she can offer their university. Talk about pressure!

      How do we manage this balancing act and when can we assure our teens that they can slow down and relax, and that they will succeed at getting into the college of their choice?

  2. Renee. I want to screen this movie at Naz on April 4th. I need your help getting the message out for the exact reasons that you write about here. APs were meant to allow students to focus on ONE area that they wanted to excel in. I agree that they became the norm. Very sad. I would love your help getting this film out there!

  3. Excellent points. I have an 8th grader who has been saying for 2 years she wants to take AP course to both speed up and lower costs of her college life. With her plans to become a neurologist – this sounds like a good plan…on the surface.

    As we entered this school year and she started several high school level and an honors class, it became clear to all of us how much more work the high school level classes entail.

    So when we had to consider her schedule for her freshman year next fall, and she was interested in several electives, the guidance counselors suggested that she could take an extra elective and just give up her study hall. WHAT!!?? (she also is involved in sports every season (at times they overlap)

    BUT, It really took some effort to get her to see/agree to to keeping the study hall and not taking a second elective….

    Interesting that i have ended up with a fairly ‘driven’ child….maybe she was switched in the hospital 🙂

    1. I don’t know what will happen when Monkey gets up into the higher grades and has to make some of these decisions. I got one of those high-powered, switched-at birth kids, too. But I think I can say with confidence that he will absolutely not be taking APs in every core subject.

      And hopefully (by then), he will be able to write a kick-ass essay about why he chose not to.

  4. I was not a tiger mama… but our children knew our expectation was that they would graduate from High School and attend the college of their choice based on their own performance. We supported them in everything they chose to do that was acceptable and assisted in achieving the goal of college.
    AP Classes have had little impact on the students from my household’s eventual success or failure. When the option was set before the student the decision was theirs. However, we had one student who loved a particular topic and excelled in it. He was not in a good place in general academically. He had the option of taking on a challenge and we pushed him toward it because being smart parents we knew part of his problem was boredom. He excelled and his general academic achievement went to a whole new level. That was an invaluable experience.

    AP classes were not accepted by their respective colleges. Part of the whole thought process is that they were going to save some tuition money. (HA!) They were pleased to have been offered the option.

    Hindsight being 20/20? Our kids have all said they would have been better off taking 1/2 days, graduating early, or enjoying more laid back options during their Junior and Senior High School years.

    Life doesn’t ever slow down, why take it at hyper speed unless there is real desire, drive and benefit?

  5. No. It wasn’t. I took three AP classes, and I still remember my scores: 4 in US History, 5 in English, 3 in Latin. English was a breeze, History was no fun whatsoever (I had a tough, awesome teacher but I was not at all interested in history (and I’m still not)), and in Latin I barely earned a C- because I was totally lost.

    I didn’t earn college credit for any of them, I didn’t learn anything special from them (except in Latin; despite being a dunce, it was pretty neat to understand little glimmers of The Aeneid from time to time), and they were pretty much entirely a waste of energy. I haven’t discussed my AP classes at all between the time I took them in 1998-1999 and this morning, so you can see exactly how much they benefited me in real, actual life.

    1. I agree with you 100%, Renee. Suffice it to say I had tickets to see RTN and couldn’t even go because I had to take care of more pressing matters similar to the topics in the movie. Oddly enough, my college freshman daughter, who “did what she could do” academically and was fine with it, was happy that she took AP Psych and got college credit. I wish the high school teachers could see what the inordinate homework load is doing to students. Especially those students already dealing with anxiety and perfectionism issues. There is a breaking point…

      1. I think high school AP teachers would argue that they are teaching what is expected of them. They have to cover the material – and fast. It’s parents who hold the reins – they want the APs, demand their child be allowed to “try” them, even when they are not recommended by teachers. I think we all need to agree it can be better go deep rather than go thin.

  6. Thanks, Renee, for the heads up! My daughter is going to be starting Kindergarten this coming autumn and I just hope I can remember this article 8-9 years from now.

  7. Renee, great info. I’m going to share this blog with my 8th grader. Like Ginny’s daughter, she has talked about wanting to take many AP classes during high school, both for the college credit and the lower total cost of college, and I think probably somewhat for the “prestige” as well. I was originally happy that she was so motivated about school. But knowing there is the possibility of those credits not being accepted at her college of choice, and hearing how demanding the classes are, I am certainly rethinking my position. Unless, like you said, it’s in a subject she truly enjoys, she shouldn’t do it just to get credit. She is already taking two high school classes, Science and Technology, and she is always talking about how hard Science is. She doesn’t love it. She says it’s her least favorite subject. She does well in all her classes, even the advanced ones, but I don’t want her whole high school life to be about coursework. I want her to have the chance to be involved in other activities, hang out with friends, and yes, even have a part-time job. And I want her to love learning. I took one AP course when I was in high school. I didn’t find it to be any more challenging than my other non-AP courses, but I’m sure that’s because it was in a subject (math-Calculus) that I naturally excelled in and enjoyed. I was glad I took it, and I did get college credit for it. But I can’t imagine if at the same time I also took AP English, AP Chemistry or Physics, AP Spanish, or AP US Gov’t or US History (gah!).

    1. Also look into your school district and whether it not weighs AP courses more heavily than other courses. (I can tell you, yours does not.) It is important for her to understand the ramifications of this. She will bust her hump and end up in the 69th percentile along with a lot of other people who enjoyed life a lot more.

      I’m not saying a person shouldn’t do AP classes – but he or she must LOVE the material.

  8. I have already had this debate with my 8th grader. AP is for parent “Always Pushing.” A kid who skips frosh English math or French is missing out on the chance to connect with classmates in a new setting etc. I don’t think anyone actually graduates early because they got a few credits. These kids and families need to learn to relax. If a college denies a top kid, their loss.

  9. Does a kid need every advantage to compete these days?!?

    Absolutely. Since the dumbing down of America has been going on the AP courses are the new honors courses that we knew in high school. As a higher education professional I see too often kids who are unprepared, who have an entitlement mentality and the work ethic of a slug.

    Kids absolutely must be able to compete internationally . A few AP courses is nothing compared to the rigors of Japanese students, Europeans and other nations that are kicking our butts in math and science…in addition to stealing American jobs ever chance they can.

    I have seen job applicants that are not even remotely qualified after getting college degree. We must produce a society that can compete in a world culture.

    Sorry folks, not stressing little Johnny or Susie will not prepare them for the real world outside the safe halls of academia. Dealing with stress, impossible deadlines and unrelenting pressure is the new working norm. Just ask anyone with a Masters degree who can’t find a job in this economy!

    1. Doug:

      I agree students need to work their hardest. They need to work hard. But not every kid should be expected to compete “internationally.” Some kids should be allowed to go to B.O.C.E.S. or other vocational programs because, let’s face it, we always need good plumbers, electricians, mechanics and folks who cut and style hair. And guess what? They can be their own bosses and become 100% self-reliant rather than the rest of us idiots who have to depend on others for our paychecks.

      My last post was about how unprepared students in NY State are for college (or the work force), so I agree with you that we are doing something dreadfully wrong when it comes to education – but taking an overload of AP courses has become the fastest way to kill the love of learning in American students.

      Learning how to cope with stress is essential for everyone, but we don’t do our children any favors by making them believe that their paths will be any easier later on if they kill themselves working to all hours of the night in high school.

      I have my own theories as to why we are getting our butts kicked, but I will save them for another day.

      1. You are exactly right. We don’t do our children any favors by making them believe that their paths will be any easier later. Period. We also do not do our children any favors by artificially shielding them from the concept of hard work, diligence and attention to detail.

        Unfortunately I have worked too many late nights to believe that it is not an essential skill. Just ask anyone with 3 kids who is working on a Masters!

        Love of learning is important…but not as important as learning how to deal with the circumstances of real life.

        BTW, my oldest daughter is a straight A honor student who is talking as much AP as she can so she can get out of the social disaster that is American high school a year early. She wants to take a year of and go to Europe then do college. To me that year will be more valuable to her than anything else. So AP is a route to an end.

    2. Doug — I don’t agree. Unrelenting pressure, impossible deadlines etc… is not what a high school kid should be seeking. I do not think that failing to deal with that as a 17 year old is a recipe for adult disaster. (This seems grammatically incorrect but I did not take AP english, Renee?)

      High School does little to prepare the normal kids for the real world. I am not sure that college does either. It didn’t for me.

      As to foreigners stealing jobs — without commenting on health care, labor, unions … etc. that is less than a half truth.

      1. I am curious. If a child’s work ethic and coping skills are primarily developed in the teen years when do you propose they learn about what faces them?!? When they hit college? Seems to me college is too late to get a first taste of reality.

        Look at suicide rates at Ivy League colleges. These kids arrive after being the best of the best in high school. Mix in huge work loads, high pressure social dynamics and the realization that they are no longer special and the result is disaster. I want my kids to have the skills they need BEFORE they leave home and we can help them cope. Failure is best when the safety net is attached and in place. Pushing kids out and expecting them to deal without adequate exposure or preparation is totally unfair and a total recipe for disaster.

        So do those kids who excel at athletics, who are pushed by coaches into stressful situation chasing the illusion of college scholarships any less stressed than the kids who is taking the academic route?

        All needs to be in balance. I am doing everything in my power to insure that when my kids leave they will have no fluffy illusions about being owed anything just for showing up. I also know that by then they will know their limits and how to deal with living in a pressure cooker. Is it fun? Is it fluffy? No. Will I worry later or have to rush off to college to scrape my kid off the dorm floor? I sure hope not.

    3. Doug and Jeff,

      Having been a prof at Vanderbilt, I know a thing or two about prestigious schools full of AP kids who have been overscheduled, pushed, and stressed out since sixth grade. Apart from the extensive alumni network, they had no advantage whatsoever because they’d never learned to manage their own time let alone think in any functional, practical way. As for late nights, well, I literally heard one student outside my office tell her mother (on the cellphone) that she didn’t have time to sleep — and this was after three all nighters. Did this make them good students? Not in the least, they were superficial thinkers with no self-direction.

      An unreflective “more is better” attitude profoundly disrepects the energy it takes to do some good, critical thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in, say, rote memorization at the early stages, and I believe in knowing your material like the back of your hand, which takes time — but that means you have to actively choose what to focus on. These kids weren’t good at anything they did because they were trying to do too many damned things at once. Having met far too many incompetent adults with the same problem, I wouldn’t have hired them or recommended that anyone else do so.

      Now, here’s the kicker: the professors, too, had started to buy into the notion that if you weren’t working on your book at 3 am, you must not be working hard enough. Well, that explains the masses of crappy books. This is why one reason I left education altogether: I was sick of alarmist rhetoric being used to mask the real problems while simultaneously demanding ridiculous amounts of work with little to show for it. Now that I’m in tech, guess what — if you don’t work at Facebook, people respect the fact that you need work/llfe balance, and that creative problem-solving doesn’t happen overnight. It’s much better.

      I don’t fault anyone for wanting to give their kids an advantage, and I understand how that works. But if America wants actual innovation, it will come from giving students rigorous basic training (and not teaching to tests, of course) but also teaching students to stay focused — and this means getting enough damned sleep. Period. (And I should add I’ve written about this before.

      Here’s my favorite quote, from Isaiah Berlin: “Life is choice, choice is loss.” You can’t do everything. Choosing is hard, but it’s necessary for actual focus. The sooner you learn that, the better your life will be.

      1. Unfortunately beyond the Academy long hours and constant demands are not a choice or the result of following one’s passion. For many people there is no recourse to go back to their boss and say, “I know you are laying off people, but I don’t feel I am creative enough when I have to work overtime”. In a perfect world I’d love to see kids stay kids and study what they want at the pace they would like to see but again this is not the way the world is currently working.

        The individual must focus their talents…but they must also know that being mediocre is a path, but being a leader is a different path. Not everyone is a leader, most people are sheep being led around by the nose without paying attention to what is around them.

        They way I look at this is about optimizing choices and alternatives. If you take a conservative path then you have some choices but many roads are closed. If you take chances and push the envelope you will have more choices. At the end of high school I would prefer to have a choice/chance of following what inspires me, but if I have cut off my choices then I have to settle for less.

        A friend of mine’s son discovered in his junior year of high school that he had a passion for engineering and that he had a talent, but the decision he had made prior to that closed that door hard. So his path led to a dead end. Yes, there are ways to backtrack but the path is much longer and much more expensive.

        Is AP the end all be all? No. Does it close any doors? No.
        Does it open other choices or expose children to a high level of learning than they received in traditional class room settings? Yes.

        In the end it is a personal choice, but at the end it is nice to be able to follow your dreams too.

      2. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” -Thomas Edison

  10. I’m really intrigued to check out Race To Nowhere. My friend is an AP teacher and she had a syllabus rejected 3 times last fall. I couldn’t believe the standards given how many problems most districts have. Every state is different for sure though. Interesting stuff, Renee.

  11. This is a superb piece of work. I can’t believe it, but I agree on every point you made. Three cheers to you and the film makers who created “Race To Nowhere.” Education is learned in many ways, going on field trips, seeing the world, reading books, speaking to interesting people, questioning things and getting answers.

    Children should take courses for knowledge. Not for the MARKS. It’s okay to fail…as long as you learned something from it.

  12. Is it “Race to Nowhere”? or “Race to Mediocrity” If a child has the aptitude and talent then the goal should be to grow to the best of their abilities.

    1. At what cost? I urge you to go to the website and look at some of the trailers for the documentary. These are not weak students. They are top students, driven students, but to what end? I think you have bought into the belief that hard work + college = sure recipe for success. I can assure you, I have watched many unhappy students burn out early as a result of all the pushing.

      Like you, I want every opportunity for my progeny… but I also want him to sleep and eat and have positive social interactions.

      I don’t believe doors are ever closed. I have worked with 50 year old adults who have been forced to start career training in completely new programs of study. They are terrified, but they are focused. They have to be with so much on the line.

      I am pretty sure most people don’t have a clue about what they want to do when they are in high school. I think it’s scary that your friend’s son felt (or maybe you felt) that figuring out his passion in his junior year in high school was too late. In my mind, he was way ahead of the curve.

      1. A) Being a leader isn’t a path; it’s something you’re either qualified to do or not. Most people not. Most people are, in fact, mediocre and we’d all be a lot happier if everybody could admit that and stop pushing people towards excellence when they’re just not excellent.

        B) Thomas Edison stole other people’s ideas and electrocuted animals to sell his particular brand of electricity. He was good at PR, I guess, and a great argument for the sizzle winning out over the steak and/or the victory of insanely driven ambition. But not for ‘hard work’ in the good old-fashioned American sense of the word.

        C) It’s not about being creative or following your dreams or any of that stupid hippie crap; I studied the Roman Empire and believe me when I say I’m more ruthlessly money-driven than you can possibly imagine. But thinking you can leave every door open is a fantasy. The point remains: engineering, accounting, whatever it is, you’ll still do better at it if you just make the damned choice and stop trying to do eight million other things. (And this is the advice of Richard Feynman, by the way).

        D) I agree with Renee — people saying they ‘can’t’ do stuff/’too late’ is BS. Yeah, you’ll have to backtrack, yeah, there will be some cost/benefit analysis, but that’s how life works. Most people don’t get it right the first time, and even if they think they do they end up having some midlife crisis. We all just have to suck it up and make a better choices when the opportunity presents itself.

  13. Below are the statistics for my local district school – Pittsford-Sutherland – regarding AP tests. It is very high. I guess it is tough to decide if we are pushing or the kids learn that this is the new way to succeed in our world. I guess it goes back to knowing your child and deciding if Ivy League is what works for them. I think there is pressure to take the AP tests since that seems to be the norm. How far do we want our kids to excel? And some do pay a price with anxiety. I think we have to look at ourselves as parents and be careful not to project our needs onto our kids. I think we have to strongly encourage and push a little, but at some point we need to listen to our children.

    Quality-Adjusted AP Exams Per Test Taker 4.2
    AP Participation Rate 73.5%
    Quality-Adjusted AP Participation Rate 64.5%
    AP Participant Passing Rate 87.8 %
    AP Exams Per Test Taker 4.8
    AP Exam Pass Rate 87.8%

  14. I think I am falling for the Worst Prof Ever. I hope the Worst Prof ever is a chick.

    Doug asked:

    If a child’s work ethic and coping skills are primarily developed in the teen years when do you propose they learn about what faces them?!? When they hit college? Seems to me college is too late to get a first taste of reality.

    We try to teach this by example. You’ve got to work for what you want. Be it $$, car, home, etc.. “I work hard. Mom works hard; you will too.” We also explain the choices that can be made along the way. To me, it’s more important to be at almost all my kids’ games, etc. than it is to make every dollar, so I scoot out of work to watch their games. Others may go the opposite route and believe they simply have to earn every buck they can. I am rambling but my point is — this stuff is learned best by example at home.

    I just do not see the relationship between coping skills and AP courses. I bet your daughter learns more about coping skills by dealing with the social disaster of high school (which it can be — much more for girls than boys I think, at least if my 14-year old and friends are an indication) than can ever be learned elsewhere. The same assholes exist in college, the office, graduate school… wherever she may be.

  15. This is an excellent post. Putting pressure on children at school is a problem that touches many countries. Having been educated in 3 different countries, I can safely say that this ‘epidemic’ is quickly growing across the whole of the Western world. I really hope that parents and teachers will do all they can to help kids make the most of their childhood and youth; they will have all their life to work and succeed.

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