"My favorite college experience was when I had a 7 AM class and the kid next to me literally poured a monster energy drink into his coffee, said, "I'm gonna die" and drank the whole thing." This is an actual quotation from a Pinterest text post. Sure, many of you will say, "Pinterest? That's not a reliable site" or "Pffttt how do you even believe a text post". Maybe another half of you would laugh, say "mood" and move on with your day if you saw this text post, that’s definitely what I did.
However, what a lot of people fail to realize is that, even if text posts aren't reliable, this is a very likely scenario and it has probably happened. How do I know you ask? I am a child who goes to school. Why would a teenager go through with such an act? What could possibly motivate a person to mix an energy drink and coffee at the beginning of the day? From a personal experience, there are various reasons ranging from lack of sleep, being overworked, short attention span, just to name a few. Mixing an energy drink with coffee causes a burst of energy which prompts the body to feel less tired and sleepy. Now let’s focus on the words of the person consuming this unholy combination, "I'm gonna die", this is, in fact true. An overdose of caffeine, from the energy drink and the coffee, can have effects ranging from a headache to elevated blood pressure, and even the extreme, a cardiac arrhythmia.
So why exactly is a teenager in a college class at 7 AM, trying to achieve an energy burst and potentially putting their life at risk? Do they have issues? Should they see a doctor about the stress? Maybe, maybe not. But if you say that to them, what about the million other students who do the same thing and haven't talked about it? What about the kids who stay up all night completing assignments? What about the kids who face burnout every other month? The ones with self-doubt? I could go on and on, but what causes this? Is it that teenagers nowadays just need to 'toughen up' or that they are trying to do much all at once? Is it because they are too sensitive?
Maybe it is because education systems all over the world have put such unhealthy pressures and expectations on children and teenagers, focusing on grades more than learning; measuring intelligence on a scale that is not inclusive in any sense of the word.
We treat students the same way that we treat animals. We measure the intelligence of a child by how willingly and accurately they follow another human's instructions.
Multiple studies are showing the rise in mental health issues in various countries. Research shows that the anxiety levels in students are the same as mental asylum patients in 2013. Depression is on the rise, as are drop-out rates and suicide rates.
Can we so blatantly ignore the crux of the matter? Are we so callous as to let our children be victims of the same system we were?
How does higher education leave children around the world less educated and more stressed?
Education systems all over the world focus more on teaching, memorizing, and marking based on tests and exams, rather than equipping children with the skills needed to survive in the world. The most common protest I have heard and made is that "I don't know how to file taxes, perform CPR, or even change a car tire, but I do know Calculus." Please understand that we don't mean to say that our education is a waste of time or that we don't want to educate ourselves; we want to arm ourselves with skills we need to live everyday life efficiently, without stressing about not knowing how the system functions.
Learning is supposed to be enjoyable, education fuelled by interest and passion, not the need to pass because of extrinsic pressures. Not the need to score and the unhealthy burden of getting straight A's in a system where you need a minimum marks to pass and yet are expected to score 96 and above.
Teenagers do not want to learn for a grade. As a teenager myself I can give you a first-hand account of the fact that any and all skills I have learned have been from the internet, Millennials on the internet, and other resources. There is not a single life- skill I have learnt in school that is viable and useful to me to live my daily life smoothly.
Schools nowadays, in addition to being 7hrs long (approximately), also pile on hours upon hours of homework on children. Not only does it put an additional workload on them, but many teenagers stay up after hours, just to meet submission deadlines and deprive themselves of much-needed sleep. Homework and deadlines not only add to the stress and anxiety levels of the students, but failure to meet these deadlines leads to self-doubt, depression and self-esteem issues.
To just reiterate the kind of strain schools put on children I would like to reference another common phenomenon. Every day you hear these phrases on a spectrum, "I wish we would get snowed in today so that school is canceled" to "I want to die". Sure, hearing them everyday we dismiss them as everyday things, or teenager stereotypes, or even as being said in a joking manner.
It's really scary that symptoms of serious mental illnesses are now considered "relatable" or a "mood" by a whole generation. It is not okay. Stop pretending like it is.
This is not just an article to inform you about the kind of stresses we face as teenagers in the current system, but a plea to you as builders of the society, as parents, as mentors, to hear us, to take heed, to realise that the future is bleak, but make us strong enough to face it.
For teenagers reading this, knowing what I am talking about, you are not alone. I hear you, I know the struggles you face. Stress can be very harsh and schools can be demanding, but you are going to make it through. You have endless avenues and days and nights to explore that park you have been wanting to and to read that book from your to-be-read list and to cook that breakfast you really want. High school and further education is important, but your grades are not what make you you, every second you breathe is what makes you, you. Please, remember to live and remember to breathe.
Footnote: Here are some helplines to reach out to http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html
Author: Freya Halgekar