William Deresiewicz and Homework-Induced Stress

Last week I attended a lecture/Q&A hosted by William Deresiewicz, the famous ex Yale professor who criticizes schools and questions the efficacy of the stressful college application processes. Throughout the discussion, he wasn’t hesitant to remind the crowd full of future college students that they shouldn’t stress out about homework assignments and similar trifles. One statement regarding school-induced stress that stood out to most of the attendees was “The truth is that you guys are not going to end up sleeping under a bridge; it is much more likely that you’ll end up jumping off of one instead.”  This was a powerful assertion which is presumably correct, considering the ridiculous amounts of mental pressure that teenagers have to deal with nowadays. (Click here if you don’t trust my claim).
As a teenager who lives in America, I can confirm, because of interactions with peers and from personal experience as well, that teenagers in America are actually subject to large amounts of stress. Obviously, there are people who really don’t care about what’s happening in their classes and avoid doing homework at all costs, but if you want to be somewhat “successful” in your high school education, then you will have to wade through the copious amount of work.
Thanks to recent research and to books published by people like William Deresiewicz, most people in America are aware of this fact. But like with most situations in the nation, it seems as if we are spending too much time attempting to find out how to deal with the problem that we are facing rather than actually asking ourselves why the problem exists in the first place. We spend a considerable amount time talking to our kids about ways to cope with stress so to make sure that they don’t experience mental breakdowns, but we have never discussed why such pressure subsists.
So, why do American high schools assign so much homework? Why are college admission processes so demanding and time consuming?

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