At some high-performing suburban high schools, students pile on activities and advanced classes, hoping to qualify for elite colleges. Stress is intense. In the Chicago suburbs, New Trier High is trying to get students to chill out. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
Among the proposals New Trier’s board is expected to vote on Monday night is one that would make a lunch period mandatory, and require students who come in an hour early for “early bird” classes to take a free period later in the day. It seems a no-brainer – how could stopping for food not be a good thing? – but it’s one of the most controversial ideas, and it points to the complications of mandating relaxation.
Many of the lunch skippers – nearly 150, in a school of 4,025 – are artists and musicians, and eating in class is one way they get in more of the electives they love while still taking requirements.
When I went to Highland Park High, New Trier was our arch rival. It was a high-stress place back in the ’60s: We always said they had more suicides.
The principal of my daughter’s high school, Palo Alto, is quoted in the story too. She had classmates who were incredible achievers; she saved her sanity by not doing sports, but thought it hurt her when she applied to colleges.
College admissions is the key factor here. As long as competitive colleges demand students take the hardest courses in all subjects, including those in which they have no interest, and excel in a wide range of activities, they’ll drive the competitive students to do more and more.