My high school is among the top schools in the nation. Advanced placement courses and honors classes abound, our campus is clean and safe, and our school lunch is at the very least palatable. But despite all of this, despite our school’s sheen of academic success, rigorous courses, and “intelligent” students, it fails when it comes to fostering real interests and personal growth in us.
I myself have been duped into believing that a sparkling academic record is the sole purpose of my life, to the extent that I felt it does not matter what personal interests I have to throw aside to be a “smart” overachiever, just like everyone else. My hobbies and interests have been thrown to the wayside in exchange for acquiring knowledge that I will most likely forget within the next year.
In five years time, I won’t care about what a London dispersion Force or a definite integral is; what I will care about is how I neglected the subjects that I love in exchange for meaningless facts so that I could compete with my ambitious classmates and please colleges. I love music and art, but I have absolutely no time in my schedule for them. I no longer take art classes because it would take up valuable time that could be spent doing homework—and oh, the unending homework! No longer do I play any instruments; Imagine all of the time it takes to have lessons and practice every day. Instead I pore over textbooks and regurgitate facts and statistic I will never in my life think about again beyond that next test.
And now as I write this, I am falling to my knees and shouting “Why?!” to the heavens. In this “why” is imbued the pent-up despair, helplessness, and anger I feel towards the AP system that has really robbed me of my love of learning. No longer is there time for me to pause and appreciate or explore a certain topic that tickles my fancy. Oh no, I must keep shoving myself forward and pushing towards that AP test in May; I must be a good little academic soldier and elbow my way through textbooks to the AP test, that looming May finish line—for that way lies the path to college acceptance and proof from an outside party that I am “advanced”. We see approval from the College Board as more important than approval from ourselves, but we will have to live with the emptiness of failing to stay true to our interests for the rest of our lives, whereas the AP scores received from The College Board will only last until we submit that last college application, then—poof! Those test scores are suddenly meaningless, just ink on a piece of bleached dead trees/glue.
We would be much better served if instead of being stuffed with information that will either be relearned in college at a deeper level or afterwards discarded altogether, we had the opportunity to focus on creativity. Creativity and independent thinking is a truly valuable skill that will stick with a person for life, whereas memorizing the chemical structures and names of all the amino acids will only lead to headaches. We should be given the chance to dabble in the arts now when we do not have to worry about paying bills and feeding ourselves, and tap into our creative sides before it gets completely smothered by a harsh and demanding world.