This morning, NPR aired a report about teenagers succumbing to the toll placed on them by their grueling advanced placement (AP) homework assignments.
Some of them, the report cried, had to do as much as four hours of homework a night! And one student they profiled – 16-year-old Nora Huynh from Alameda, Calif. – is actually getting irritable with her siblings and suffering headaches because of the vast quantity of homework they’re doing!
The stress is so much that some students have to drop their extracurricular activities, like sports and piano lessons, I guess. (I don’t know. This is all foreign to me.)
That report rolled into another on a movement to push back the start time of school because some students are tired in the mornings.
I listened, amused, as I trekked into work. I took an AP class in high school – AP literature, got an A, and tested-out of having to take a lit class in college – and it was more work than the regular-level classes I had. But then, even that homework took a backseat to my work obligations. While others pored over their calculus homework, I raked dishes into a trashcan, assembled pans of lasagna and scrubbed down a kitchen until around 10 p.m. every night. Then, it was home to begin my studies until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.
And this is the experience of a large number of teenagers who also would very much like the opportunity to go to college. Because that’s why these kids are crying if they carry less than a 4.0: they’re competing with one another to pursue their postsecondary opportunities. But they’re also competing with their less-privileged peers – the kids making Big Macs and bagging groceries after class.
Missing from NPR’s report – which included the statistic that almost half of high school students were stressed about their homework (half!) – was even so much as a nod to these kids.
One girl profiled in the report did the unimaginable: she dropped an AP class. The result: she now had more time to ride her horse.
Oh, for heaven’s sake.
And then to follow that with the suggestion that school starts too early and the petitions to make school start no earlier than 8 a.m. just piled on the insult and injury. Pushing the start of school back means school lets out later. That’s fewer hours for the kids who need jobs to work, and even fewer hours for those kids to complete their homework assignments.
The kids who work already face an uphill academic climb. They are likely to be the first generation of their family to attend college. They won’t have the economic support that their peers enjoy (I myself rarely bought a textbook, and if I did, I usually bought one on discount that was one or two editions older than the one currently being used for the given class). And they won’t benefit from the scholarship opportunities that their AP-involved peers will have (especially as more public scholarship programs, like Georgia’s HOPE scholarship, become merit-based rather than need-based, so that those students with the extra time to pursue a high grade point average will be better positioned than their needier counterparts who must balance academics against employment).
I do hope NPR’s tongue was firmly lodged in their cheek during this story, but if it was, it was well concealed; the report sounded sincere.
More time and attention needs to be given to the plight of those who are overcoming adversity to live their dreams and build better lives. The kid who can’t play with her pony because she has homework (bless her heart) hardly deserves our sympathy.