Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - January 7, 2011

Student stress not caused by educators

by Susanna Gordon

Please, fair is fair. While this school district should be the target of some serious criticisms, your article placing the blame for student stress on educators is inaccurate and misleading (Teens say pressure leads to cheating, drug use, depression," Dec. 31, 2010). Yes, students have too much busy work, and yes, there are teachers who do not do their jobs, but making education the culprit here is unfair.

As a college admissions consultant, I can tell you that many students spend two to four hours in a weekday on Facebook and other social networking sites, and more on the weekend. They do their homework while constantly replying to the latest contact from a friend or peer, and interrupt themselves and others with constant text messaging while fitting in a little homework. If the computer is in the teen's bedroom, parents are generally clueless about what is going on. In class, they hold their phones under the desk and text constantly, regardless of classroom rules. Many regard this as the most important part of their lives. Not getting to sleep until after midnight is more the result of the priority attached to constant contact with peers than with educational demands. Telling parents they are doing homework until 3 a.m. obfuscates the issue. 

In addition, for many students, every after-school minute until mid- or late-evening is programmed, mostly with sports. Students are shocked when I remind them that sports are not the most important thing in their lives, because for many, including some parents, sports seem to trump academics. The order of importance for college admissions is grades, test scores, the well-crafted essay, and then volunteering and extracurricular activities. Students who get into the upper echelon universities do not confuse their priorities. I would guess that Edison or Einstein had a little time to daydream; many of our teens do not. 

Teachers should not be expected to be sympathetic or lenient when a student scores poorly on a math test or fails to hand in an assignment because of soccer practice or a game. Furthermore, blaming cheating or drug use on the school system should be regarded as an outrageous ploy and vigorously

rejected by thinking adults. 

There are thousands of good colleges that accept B or B+ students, while aiming for a top tier college if you cannot manage to maintain an A or A- average in high school is unrealistic. California schools are about 48th out of 50 in quality of education. Our country is 34th of the 36 leading nations of the world in measurable quality and results of education, down from first place a few decades ago. We come in dead last on that list in math and science, and national surveys show that only 36% of our high school graduates are ready for college work. Colleges and universities have responded to this crisis by implementing a remedial curriculum for incoming freshman. 

The reasons for this are complex and varied, and there are ways the school system could improve the quality of education students receive. However, placing the blame on our local education system for the out-of-school behavior of students misses the mark. 

Susanna Gordon lives in Pleasanton and is a certified college admissions consultant who works with high school and junior college students in preparing for SATs, ACTs, and grad school admissions tests. Her children are graduates of Amador Valley high School, four are UC graduates, some with advanced degrees, and her youngest is a private school graduate.

Comments

Posted by Disagree, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2011 at 10:47 am

"As a college admissions consultant, I can tell you that many students spend two to four hours in a weekday on Facebook and other social networking sites, and more on the weekend. They do their homework while constantly replying to the latest contact from a friend or peer, and interrupt themselves and others with constant text messaging while fitting in a little homework. "

NOT ALL students are like this. NOT ALL students spend their time on Facebook. Many students are good students, productive with their time but the homework is still TOO MUCH.

I am glad I do not use your services as a "college admissions consultant" - you attitude is not good for anyone, much less a student who is truly doing the right things and here you are, generalizing about how students spend their time.

"Teachers should not be expected to be sympathetic or lenient when a student scores poorly on a math test or fails to hand in an assignment because of soccer practice or a game. "

No one accuses teachers of that, but teachers should be held accountable when they fail to do their job, and we have plenty of teachers who do not teach: they get to class and ask the students to learn on their own from the book and then take a test. Some teachers do not even understand the material themselves, so when they score a test, a question is considered wrong if it does not match exactly what the teacher guide says, and with Math and English, you know that there are sometimes more than one correct answer. Again, you are making accusations without realizing that NOT ALL students are this way. You may know some student who are this way, but that in no way reflects on ALL students.

"In addition, for many students, every after-school minute until mid- or late-evening is programmed, mostly with sports."

It is healthy to have activities other than school. They are crucial for a healthy development. I know someone in a less stressful school environment who successfully managed a sport (which btw got him a scholarship into a UC) with school work. He went to a district that is not as big on homework as PUSD. He learned WITHOUT tons of daily homework and busy work.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Jan 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm

I been had a good education. I blame the parents if there's a problem. I been had good teachers and learned to read and write.

I attended HS in the UK. The BRITS are more serious about educating children.

If somebody doesn't like the way American's are educated, then get out of our country.




Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 7, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I read this opinion piece and thought it was fair. I don't agree with some of the conclusions, but we do have to recognize that student attitude and culture (i.e., emphasis on sports) plays a role in educational success.


Posted by no kids, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2011 at 8:56 am

If I did have kids I would want this person to cousel them on admissions to college. She hits the nail on the head. Parents allow their kids to waste countless hours on FB and texting, then they complain that the teachers have assigned too much homework. That is just not the case. Take away the cell phone, get the computers out of the bedrooms and take some responsibility for the way your kid spends their time.
The whining in this town is enough to make anyone wonder how this generation of texting slackers will ever amount to anything other than being a burden on society.


Posted by Would not hire her, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2011 at 10:02 pm

There are various reasons why I would not want this person helping my kids with the admission process:

1) she makes assumptions about what every kid is doing. She accusses all kids of misbehavior, facebook use, of having every minute of their time programmed, etc... and based on what? Her experience with a few kids she has worked with?

2) she obviously had a few clients who fit the profile she described. I wonder how those clients feel about their problems being disclosed publicly, used as a way to promote/market the non-existent need for this consultant.

3) there is simply no need for a college admissions consultant. We got into college (UCs) and did just fine. We can help our kids without the need to hire someone who obviously generalizes and already assumes the worse about students. And even parents who did not go to UCs, or college for that matter, can help their child by simply doing the research or seeking help from a less pretensious person, one with a better attitude and less accusatory tone.


Posted by read carefully, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm

The writer did not say ALL students waste time on facebook, etc., nor did she make assumptions about what every kid is doing. She said "many". Many means multiple, not all or every.

Parents: do your job. Have children do their homework in a public, family space instead of in their room, behind closed doors. I bet they'll get it done quickly so they can be excused.


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