The American School System: A Student’s Perspective

Sanjana Kumari

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It’s widely acknowledged that homework is a key part of America’s educational system; take it from me, a student at the Albany Academy for Girls who experiences the stress caused by this overwhelming amount of homework and witnesses many of her peers go through it alongside her. This stress, unfortunately, occurs on a daily basis because students can never seem to catch a break! Everyone’s always looking forward to weekends and holiday breaks because it gives them some much needed time off from school, but even during these vacations, we all end up miserable anyway because we’ve been assigned homework to do during what’s supposed to be time away from the overwhelming heap of responsibilities given to us by school. Honestly, not a single weekend or vacation from the last 5 years comes to mind where my peers and I were homework-free. Sure, sometimes we’re lucky enough to get everything done in school, so we don’t have to worry about it over the weekend, but since high school started, that’s been happening less and less.

It might be pretty obvious that tremendous and constant stress is an effect of the way our education system is built. The biggest flaws in said system are the things cause those never-ending thoughts of, “Oh, shoot, I forgot to do my English homework and it’s almost two in the morning!” and, “I know I should study for those three tests I have tomorrow, but I’m just so tired,” among several others. 

Let’s start with what’s probably a given: the workload. The further we progress in grades – particularly in high school – the more work we’re expected to manage, which makes complete sense! The problem is that the amount of work we get in freshman year, the start of high school, is so staggering in and of itself that it creates anxiety of the amount of work that’s to come in the next three years. It’s understandable that this amount of work is supposed to help us figure out time management, but, at the same time, it seems a bit much.  Do we really need an hour (or sometimes even more) of homework from all, or most, of our classes nearly every night? No, definitely not. I’ve spent a whole lot of nights at my desk for nearly three hours doing nothing but homework, only to realize that I’ve still got multiple assignments left. It’s incredibly upsetting and frustrating, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been in that situation, nor am I the only one who would greatly appreciate not having to be in that situation anymore. A survey taken in December 2018 showed that high school students attending private schools like the Albany Academies receive approximately ten hours of homework per week. Considering the fact that a typical school week is only five days long and many weeks in the school year are cut short due to holidays, teacher conference days, or snow days, that means that private school students are assigned about two hours of homework per night. Two hours. We already spend seven or more hours at school nearly every day, and then we get two hours worth of more schoolwork to do that night? That already takes up more than a quarter of a day!

 

This raises a question that leads me to my next point: Has it ever been considered that many students partake in one or more extracurriculars, as well as out of school activities? Well, if it has,  it doesn’t show. Activities like sports and theatre are huge time commitments, and having piles of homework to do on top of that is just the cherry on top of the Stress Sundae! Sadly, it feels like students are always to blame for this.  If we didn’t choose to do these activities, we’d have more time for homework… right? While that may be true, it seems highly unfair to encourage students to give up things that they’re passionate about just so they can focus on school. We’re always told by adults that we’re young and that we should make the most of our youth, but how are we supposed to do that if we’ve got hours of homework to do and several tests and quizzes to study for? Honestly, we can’t, and that’s what’s frustrating. Some of the adults in our lives tell us to live while we’re young and to do what we love, but others tell us that we can’t pursue our passions if they get in the way of schoolwork, and that’s what stops us from following the advice we were initially given

 

Building off of that, the final point I have to make is that nearly every scenario the burden falls on the student, and this is, perhaps, the biggest flaw in the way the American school system works. As previously stated, we, as students, are expected to handle heaps of homework as well as manage one or more activities that we want to commit to outside of school. In the case that managing all of this becomes too much to handle, we’re expected to drop pretty much anything that isn’t related to our academic lives, things that we usually love and are passionate about, or even out-of-town trips to see our families for occasions like reunions and weddings. For two years in a row I’ve had to miss out on trips to India because of school, both of those trips being for the weddings of two of my closest relatives. If we’re out late because of a performance or a match and are simply too tired to complete all of our assignments the night before they’re due, shouldn’t that be a valid situation, assuming we approach our teachers with credible sources like handwritten notes or emails? If we’re away for a period of time, should we have to come back and make up every single assignment and assessment we’ve missed? That probably wouldn’t even be a question if we didn’t have so much homework to do. I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, but this idea that it’s always on me, that it’s up to me and me alone to get all of this work done, does a number on my mental state and self-esteem. I’m sure it can’t be good for anyone to feel bad for having a normal life that occasionally prevents them from doing schoolwork, which they’re already doing nearly every single day. 

School is important and it’s good to prioritize it over certain other things, but it shouldn’t be important enough that it comes above the activities that make us happy, nor should it be important enough that we prioritize it over our mental health and making time for ourselves every day. Everyday life would be easier for so many students in America if stricter limits were placed on how much homework was assigned from every class and how many nights a week it was assigned. Along with that, it would be much appreciated if there was stronger encouragement towards the students to choose and pursue the extracurriculars that they want to pursue, whether those extracurriculars are academic, athletic, or artistic.

 

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