Too Few Overachievers

In this opinion piece, Jay Mathews at the Washington Post draws attention to something most visitors to most high schools in most parts of the developed world would echo:

For the vast majority [of high school students], academic stress is pretty rare.

Mathews’ attention was brought to the topic by the buzz around Alexandra Robbins’s new book, “The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids.”  His point is that among overachievers – students who take multiple advanced placement classes and seek admission to elite universities – life can be stressful.  At issue is that this population comprises no more than 5 – 10 percent of students in U.S. schools.  Mathews cites data from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute.  The Institute –

regularly asks about 400,000 college freshmen how much homework they did in high school. About two-thirds say only an hour a night or less.

So an hour or less.  Hmm.  It’s not that there’s anything holy about homework, but Mathews references other research to highlight how time is being spent:

The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research collects time diaries from American teenagers. These documents make clear our youth are not taking long walks in the woods or reading Proust. Instead, 15- to 17-year-olds on average between 2002 and 2003 devoted about 3 1/2 hours a day to television and other “passive leisure” or playing on the computer. (Their average time spent in non-school reading was exactly seven minutes a day.)

The point is not to bemoan slothful youth, but to help these people poised on adulthood to enter their world ready to take their places.  And I think we’d all agree this isn’t prone on an easy chair in their parents’ living room.  Reminds me of Chungian Motion

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