I was particularly struck by two of the themes in your notes.
One was the suggestion that today’s high school students shouldn’t be expected to comprehend poetry they hadn’t seen before or make sense of a passage from a novel they hadn’t previously read. Students today simply don’t read much, a number of you wrote. I should understand that you come from families that don’t read, others said. Or that reading simply isn’t an important part of your lives.
Here’s how an exasperated sophomore named Amanda put it: ‘‘Were you entirely left out of the loop when the rest of the world realized that not everyone reads as much as their minds would like to indulge?’’ Because of today’s teenage culture, ‘‘a plethora of students don’t make reading a habit of mind and the MCAS is a challenge,’’ added a 15-year-old named Ally.
Read more, Lehigh advises. Watch less TV.
Students also complained their lives were stressful and made worse by the burdens of test-taking. Lehigh responded that stress is nothing new.
I will tell you this about my own high school experience. Like you, we complained about how much schoolwork we had and how much was expected of us. But three decades removed, the teachers we remember fondly are not the ones that let us slide through, who sometimes showed films on Fridays to ease the glide into the weekend or who seldom assigned homework because they knew we were busy with sports.
Rather, we revere the memory of those who insisted their class was a priority and who demanded that we pay attention, work hard, and learn something. And who, by so doing, helped us acquire the skills that have sustained us since. I hope and expect you will feel the same way someday.
There is more stress today on students competing for elite colleges. But kids who worry about passing state exams aren’t the ones worrying about getting into Yale.