It's a topic that's been floating around for a while: Is too much stress being placed on students, especially in high achieving districts such as the Bernards Township school system?
Or are they just being well-prepared for the ever-climbing demands of a difficult job market? And — even prior to that — for how to cope with the increase in work and independent studying responsibilities at most colleges?
Is intense competitiveness, generated by the college acceptance process, schools that want to tout high standardized scores and — the parents themselves — "robbing kids of their childhood," as one grandmother told me.
The subject again was discussed at this week's Board of Education meeting. The only conclusion reached on Monday, however, is that students, parents and teachers all will be surveyed for their opinions on student stress and the "stressors" that may be overburdening young people.
The surveys would be for K-12 staff, kindergarten through grade 12 parents, and students in grades 6-12 in the middle school and the high school, said Sean Siet, director of curriculum and instruction for the entire school system.
The surveys will be sent out electronically to the different groups some time between October and November, said Schools Superintendent Valerie Goger.
Among the questions tossed up in the air on Monday and at a previous board discussion: Do students really need to take a full slate of Advanced Placement (college level work for which college credits can be earned) courses at once? Or can they get by with just a few in their strong subjects? Is too much time being spent on extra-curricular activities such as sports? Can the homework burden be reduced without cutting back on rigorous academic standards?
And, as board member Mike Byrne has asked, is now a good time to even think about relaxing academic standards, with the job market highly competitive and more information than ever that needs to be crammed into students' brains during their educations?
The magic answer — I think — is...it depends on the student.
Some students thrive on a competitive schedule, in a competitive environment. Others wilt when overwhelmed with too many demands. I think those with more than one child can even see the difference in the same family.
Child number one sometimes stressed over too many demands. He worried that his SAT scores weren't as high as those of his very high-achieving friends.
But when he got to college, he said that because of his (not always fondly remembered) four years at Ridge High School, he was better prepared than most other students. He felt confident while they were freaking out when getting hit with college work. I've heard that same view from other Ridge students, who attended other colleges, that they felt they had been better prepared at Ridge than at other high schools.
As a note, he did limit his AP courses to a few during his upper class years, and in the courses he was more likely to need or study in college. I personally do think there is not much reason for many students to burden themselves by taking on too much college work in a non-major subject.
That is — unless the student enjoys doing so!
The younger student probably should be placing more stress on himself to work. But, I think, over time he is getting into the routine, partially by being required to do more in his high school courses. He also likes taking classes that he himself can select, which is a motivator.
But I do think that he sometimes gets overwhelmed and hates to ask questions about something he doesn't understand.
So, the answer isn't so easy. A public school has to serve all types of students, and that's a very broad, demanding task.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below. And I again will be back at the Starbucks in Riverwalk at about 12:30 p.m. today if you want to stop by and say hi, or join the conversation in person.