The student news site of Brookline High School

Examining stress through the lens of a larger culture

January 7, 2022

Whether changes to the schedule will ever be enough to truly ease student stress levels is unclear. In a larger sense, the pressures that students face to take on more classes than they can manage stem from a school culture that emphasizes grades, difficult classes and test scores. Meyer acknowledged these ambitious mindsets may be damaging to mental health at times.

“Part of me wants to honor challenging course loads and say students should have whatever challenge they want,” Meyer said. “But there’s this other caring part of me that wants to put more limits on what students are taking on. I worry that students, including my own kids, look at each hard course and say, ‘that’s manageable,’ and they make all these decisions individually and not collectively. And then all of a sudden you’re in October and you’re drowning in homework.”

Mason said the high school’s value for hard work leads to academic success and achievement that draws attention from colleges. But still, he acknowledged this culture ropes many students into classes that they’re not interested in but still feel obligated to take.

“The culture at BHS honors and respects academic work, and that promotes the high level of achievement you see from BHS students. It’s why BHS is so well-respected in the college admission game; colleges understand the level of preparation and the level of work that goes into doing well in a school like this,” Mason said. “That said, it can also come at a price. You can force people into feeling like they have to take certain classes and they have to work too hard to keep up, even if it’s not the class that they’re really interested in. You have kids that take AP Bio because they love biology, but you also have kids that take AP Bio because they think they ‘have to,’ and they get sucked along. How do you create a school that celebrates these students that have this real passion for something and yet also recognize that’s not the only way to succeed?”

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