School pressure leads to materialism

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 November, 2011, 12:00am


Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic and Miseducated Students
Denise Clark Pope
Published by Yale University Press
ISBN 978-0300098334

Some people may say that students have the easiest 'jobs' in the world - after all, all they need to do is get good grades and get accepted to university, right? For five students in the ultra-competitive Faircrest High School, in California, US, life's not so simple.

Denise Clark Pope, a lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education, closely shadowed five students during their final year and wrote about each in depth. All were top students, but each one had their own approach to school - some did the maximum amount of work to get a 4.0 grade average, the highest possible score ... and some did the minimum to keep their grades up.

This study was a wake-up call to most people involved - the students mentioned did not think of school as a place to learn. They saw it just as an instrument - a way to help students get what they want later on in life - for example, a well-paid job.

Reading this made me realise how lucky I was to be studying in a school where the competition is friendly - of course we 'fight' against each other to get the best grade possible, but we're always willing to help others tackle their assignments/problems.

However, competition in Faircrest is cut-throat - students are willing to sabotage others to ensure that they stay on top.

Through the case studies, readers got to know the five students very well - both academically and socially. The chapters cover everything from homework to health problems (drinking too much coffee/ too many energy drinks to stay awake) and after-school jobs. Instead of criticising the students' behaviour, you begin to understand why they act that way - and you stop judging them.

Sometimes you may even sympathise with them - after all, almost every student has felt that mid-afternoon slump.

I'd definitely recommend this to teachers - maybe they'll have pity on us sleep-deprived students and assign less homework. A girl can dream, right?