Design by Hannah Bright
In my sophomore year, a year where I attended an American school based in London, I spent the majority of my days working on chemistry and geometry for an average of four to eight hours per day. I visited my teachers twice a day and asked question after question.
Only about half the time did I leave my teacher’s office understanding the content.
On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed my English, band and history classes, but I was able to spend only thirty minutes to an hour on those subjects because I was so busy stressing about my math and science classes. Even after all of this effort and time, I finished both courses with grades I was not satisfied with. The American high school education system focuses too much on students’ weaknesses rather than the things they are passionate about.
Now, I’m a senior here at a traditional public high school and have found my experience to be no different. Because of the insane pressure to have the perfect “well-rounded” college application, I spend egregious amounts of time pursuing participation in clubs and activities that are meaningless to me. And all in the name of well-roundedness.
Because of the desires of both universities and scholarships, high school students are taught that they must be involved in everything in order to look good on paper.
According to Forbes, “One could become mediocre when he/she focus on weakness, but focusing on strengths… can take people to excellence.”
Sure, if you work hard to improve your flaws, you will improve over time. However, it is not working on your alleged “faults” that takes you to new heights; it is accomplishing goals that you never thought possible, dreams that you’ve always had. Students will not make a difference or achieve greatness by spending all of their time and energy on the topics they dislike; rather, they must be allowed to focus on subjects they love that will hone their skills and passions.
Analysis from Gallup reveals that “people who use their strengths every day are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.”
In this way, not focusing on students’ strengths can also lead to a career path that they may not actually have a desire to go into, resulting in unhappiness in the workplace. When students are forced to center the majority of their time on things they dislike or do not care about, they tend to get stuck in jobs that they do not enjoy in the slightest. As a result, young people do not find their true passions until far too late in life.
Allenvision carried out a recent study that found that “31% of employees… strongly agree that their manager focuses on their weaknesses.”
It’s not just high schools that are mandating a focus on imperfections, but companies too. This certainly raises the question of whether the people in our country are ever able to truly hone the skills they are excited about.
In a survey of Sage Creek students, 72 percent of students say that they agree that they have to focus too much on their weaknesses, while almost 63 percent were found to believe that classes like foreign language and science should not be required for graduation if students have no interest in the subjects.
Therefore, a significant amount of high school students on our campus are not satisfied with the status quo and have a desire for an education system that caters more towards the likes and dislikes of the individual rather than an overly-standardized system that jumps to inaccurate conclusions.
For example, students who live in Austria are allowed to specialize early on. An Austrian student who recently visited the United States told me that he is currently in engineering school, yet he is only seventeen. In this way, Austrian students are still exposed to a variety of subjects, they are just allowed to decide their main career path while still a teenager. By doing so, students are able to start their careers earlier and are benefited because of it.
There are some who would argue that students must take a wide variety of classes during the entirety of high school and even some more in college in order to be well-rounded individuals. However, the word “well-rounded” is hardly usable anymore; students are no longer well-rounded, but mediocre-rounded. Although having a wide variety of experience is important, I feel as if in the United States students are taught to be mediocre at everything rather than talented, passionate and motivated in a few things.
I am not saying that students should only take one class and decide their major in their freshman year of high school; rather, I am asserting that students are being forced to use much of their time on topics that are not relevant to their future instead of subjects that are. So the next time a student complains about a class that is painfully boring or difficult, have a little sympathy.
This story was originally published on The Sage on March 27, 2019.