Opinion | What issues should ETHS students care about most?

Aaliya Weheliye, Staff Writer

I learned something so crazy when I started taking classes I was truly interested in: I don’t hate school. 

Me and many of my peers put immense pressure on ourselves because it feels like college is when our life starts. The problem is viewing high school as a mere stepping stone to college and not its own unique experience. It makes sense we feel this way because of the way our school is set up, we are prepared for college the minute we step foot on campus as bright-eyed freshmen. There are benefits to this, but ultimately it takes away from our high school years. I am not going to be a hypocrite and tell people to not take AP classes, or do test prep for the SAT, or to join clubs and sports when I have done all of those. The problem is why people take these actions for the wrong reasons. Some of my favorite classes ever have been AP classes, and I have gained valuable knowledge I wouldn’t have otherwise. The same thing is to be said about extracurriculars—I have had great experiences with these and have made great friends via clubs and sports. But this idea that we have to take a meaningless amount of AP classes and join every club under the sun to appeal to college is beyond detrimental to our growth and learning. The value in challenging yourself in subjects and areas about which you are passionate is immeasurable. Yet, we stretch ourselves so thin thinking that wanting to be a math major means we have to get an A in AP Literature. This picture of a “well-rounded student” that colleges want has us pushing ourselves in areas that we don’t care about. 

I think there is so much pressure to not “peak” in high school that we dismiss this crucial time of our life. For many of us, it’s the first time in our adolescence that we know what we want to do with our lives. We make new friends and experience so many firsts. These are all valuable lessons that we gain from high school. But trying to have fun and maintain a good social life in high school is not peaking. I am so tired of people acting like valuing friendships during school is unfocused or irresponsible. You can study for that biology quiz and still grab coffee with your friends. This idea that school should isolate us so we can focus is so unhealthy. Having strong social connections actually helps increase brain function. It even helps you live longer! This study also found that people who are isolated are more likely to develop dementia and other brain problems. Your friendships are crucial to your ability to be a good student and should not be dismissed. 

While we go to a public school, it is still extremely competitive and high pressure. I noticed me and my peers focusing more on how we can make ourselves academically successful than actually enjoying high school. I want school to be something that people, including myself, look forward to rather than dread. Contrary to popular belief it is not normal by any means for classes to give us anxiety or insurmountable stress. I know this article probably won’t change people taking countless AP classes or basing their worth off an outdated standardized test, but we can look for small ways to reduce that anxiety and start to actually enjoy high school.