Stressed Out Students

By Mitchell Salerno, Secondary Principal, Statesville Christian School

Are you stressed? Overworked? Tired? The evidence suggests that our students are. Many American high school students are reportedly overworked and pressured to produce wonderful grades, compete in athletics, and participate in clubs. What is the pot at the end of the rainbow? Getting into a great college!

However, getting into America's best colleges is certainly becoming more competitive. Consider the following article from the New York Times (click here for the article). Acceptance rates are very low. I recently learned of a school that received over 35,000 applications and accepted 7,500 students with the intention of welcoming 2,500 freshmen on campus in the fall. This pressure has produced high school environments that are competitive and cut-throat.

There are several organizations that are concerned about the stress that high school students are facing. One of them is at Stanford University, called Stressed Out Students or SOS for short (click here to visit the SOS website). This organization works with high schools to reduce the amount of stress placed on students. The following article from the Washington Post (click here for the article) and video from CNN (click here for the video) highlight the program at Stanford and provide information regarding the amount of stress that schools, parents, and others place on our young people.

The SCS faculty recently read an article by Pope (the founder and director of the SOS program) and analyzed it from a biblical worldview. In particular, we were interested in why so many of our students were seeking admission into a "great" college. In this sense, our students are no different than the average American high school student.

Recently, I was the substitute in one of our senior courses and I asked eight seniors if they felt stress. For the most part, they answered that they did. Furthermore, I asked them if grades were important and they suggested that they were. When I asked them what good grades would deliver they suggested that good grades led to a good college which led to a good job which led to money which led to happiness and being comfortable. I finally asked them what their ideal life would look like and they replied that they would have a great family, earn enough money to provide for their needs, and live in a safe neighborhood.

Before you get too excited, I would suggest that you examine your own heart. Personally, I must admit that I have had the same thoughts. Yet, is this God's ideal? Does he call us to comfort or to service?

The SCS faculty has been wrestling with our role in inculcating a biblical worldview in our students such that they seek to develop their talents for God's glory and His service. The SOS program at Stanford seeks to reduce stress by altering schedules, teaching Yoga, reducing homework, etc.; however, these are merely temporary and fleeting attempts to mediate the humanistic and materialistic foundations that undergird the real issue. As Christians, we understand that reducing stress lies not in techniques but in the One that produces peace (Read Romans 8, considering it light of the current discussion).

I have challenged the faculty to consider how we can better instill a biblical worldview in our students and how we can create an environment that is developmentally appropriate. Interestingly, I have noticed that the gospel is not congruent with popular culture. At some point we will need to address what a Christian values compared to what the world values. I would contend that the "great" college is not the most prestigious, but the one that God has providentially chosen.

I invite parents, students, and faculty to chime in on the discussion. These types of worldview discussions are uncomfortable because they challenge the world within us. I am truly interested in your thoughts.