I believe that kids are becoming robots. Okay, not bolts in their necks and extension cords in their bowels robots, but robotic in the ways they live out lives that have been preplanned for them. For many high school students, open periods in schedules that used to be filled with interesting or eye opening classes like art or life skill classes are now an opportunity to thrust another AP class into the schedule.
Many students determine which clubs they will join and which classes they will take based solely on how much it can improve their student resume or inch them just a little above their fellow classmates in rank. Gone are the days of joining the German club just because of a strong interest in German, unless, that is, there’s an opportunity as an officer because that helps pad the application as well.
But kids aren’t motivated just by the desire to form a great college application, they also feel enormous pressure from their parents; however, these same parents tend to take care of every problem for their children. With grades now often available online, it is not uncommon for parents to check their children’s grades daily, and all call and email teachers, guidance counselors, even administrators, constantly. High school sports are fraught with parent-coach politics. Problems that teenagers used to have to take care of for themselves now seem to magically disappear before their eyes.
This combination of loss of choice and parent “helicopters” is creating a generation of kids who enter college without a realistic view of the world, and more importantly, an identity. High school has always been a tough enough place without the added pressure of 4.0s and obsessive parents, and these have just increased the conformity already present in high schools. With so much on their plate, struggling to maintain independence and gain peer acceptance is the last thing teenagers want to worry about, so instead they find a group of friends early on and cling to that group no matter how they are treated or how their views change.
Instead of taking free time to explore their interests and discover who they are, teenagers are too busy to have free time at all, and instead conform to the stereotypes of people who fit in easily. In my own experience, I’ve seen a friend devastated by another friend, insulted and hurt, only to return to that friend with free absolution of guilt because she is terrified of being alone. This fear is driven by the same lack of identity that makes teenagers so insecure and afraid to find out who they really are. The fact that their parents have always taken care of everything means that they can’t effectively face conflict-resolution with a friend.
Despite the problems the current teenager faces, there is still hope. It is clear that kids are willing to work hard and push themselves, they just need parents to give a little breathing room, and maybe they’ll be able to find out what really drives them and focus their energy to achieve great accomplishments in their unique interests.