OP-ED: Getting Worked Up Over School Work



Stephen Tahbaz, Editorial Director, Senior

We are overworked. By we, I mean the student body of PMHS. I don’t believe this is the fault of the school, for our society is ultra competitive, and in order to have a chance of succeeding in life, students are expected to achieve high grades, participate in extracurriculars, play sports, and work jobs. So, as our school attempts to provide us with the best possible education, we find ourselves with less time to complete all the other necessary tasks in our daily lives. This is a problem.

According to The National Center for Education Statistics, a website run by the federal government, the average school day for a student living in New York is 6.59 hours long. Coupled with the standard 3.5 hours of homework students get a day, per a Business Insider report, students are facing over 10 hours of work in a day. Before the insertion of opinion, I will simply provide perspective. A Pew Research analysis of Labor Department statistics shows that the average American adult works 37.5 hours per week, or about 7.74 hours a day. This means that the typical American high school student is working 30 percent longer each day than adults in our nation, and that’s before calculating in sports, clubs, or an actual job. These statistics should be shocking and infuriating. There is no just society in which developing high schoolers should be working longer hours than their adult counterparts. Right now, you should be Googling the numbers I’ve provided to fact check me, because you are so surprised by the discrepancy I’ve illuminated. Search away, and you’ll find more of the same. These facts are frustrating and unbelievable, yet they’re true.

As a current high schooler, it comes as no surprise to me that stress levels for adolescents are at all time records, and are only climbing. Per an American Psychological Association report, teens last year reported stress levels at or exceeding those of adults. This underscores the clear issue at hand; we spend too much time worrying and not enough time being kids. It is undeniable that college spots and employment opportunities are being filled by the most competitive applicants; jobs often go to international students who spend more time studying than American students. Chinese high schools spend an extra half-month in class. In Japan, students attend “cram school” into the evening, after class formally ends, to get in extra studying. This makes the problem of overworked American students harder to solve. If we want to be equally competitive in the workforce and in college, we have to do more work, and when we do more work, we lose free time. It’s a vicious cycle, the end of which is excessive stress and unnecessary anxiety.

As a society, we need to move to embrace a culture that promotes a better balance of work and play for America’s teens. Childhood, especially one’s adolescent years, is supposed to be a time of exploration and development, and in order for that to occur, free time must exist every day. Employers should start leaning on the most creative and interesting applicants, not the ones most qualified on paper. Colleges should search for candidates that spent high school discovering cool new opportunities instead of taking 20 standardized tests and every possible AP. The solution to this problem starts in each house and each community. When parents shift to embracing a balanced lifestyle for their children, and desired applicants are framed as interesting people instead of zealously qualified machines, we as a society can end to the excessive stress of students.