001044960

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When I was seventeen,

A guy was driving me home from dinner

(which, believe me, did not happen all that often)

And somehow, the subject turned to school

He thought it was cool, he said,

How I was so smart and at the top of my class

How the world seemed to simply rest

In the palm of my hand

 

I looked at this boy

Who had no AP credits under his belt

Who was preparing for community college

And told him that I envied him,

Because he had never lost himself

To a system of numbers playing plug-and-chug

Trying to create the perfect student:

Three parts AP classes,

Two part Honors Societies,

One part capitalize on her achievements

To make the school look good

 

My life is overcrowded classrooms of struggling students

Barely pulling B’s and C’s in classes they were told they were prepared for

Four years of constant struggle against one another

A dog-eats-dog mindset based on GPA and class rank,

Lying, fighting, cheating, beating,

Sleepless nights and caffeine addiction and panic attacks in the hallways,

All turning us into people we don’t recognize

And who we never wanted to be

 

We laugh about it

And say we are fine

But oh, we are not.

Working, scrambling, scratching our way

To the top of a mountain we don’t even care about anymore

We just want it to be over

We want it to be done

 

Keep up those grades, you say.

Apply for that Honors Society,

(and then another, because everyone is in at least one);

Join an extracurricular,

Or two, or three,

Just to show them how well-rounded you are;

Volunteer

Get a job

Tutor

Do you truly wonder at what I’ve become?

 

You stand there and cover me

In stoles and cords and little shiny pins,

Thinking it was such a breeze to simply stroll across that stage

Like it had all been so easy

 

I spent the majority of my sophomore year in therapy

Because I thought razors were the way to handle my problems

I’ve come to school so ill

That I passed out on my way to the nurse’s office

When I decided I’d had enough

I’ve held friends who were sobbing their eyes out,

Saying they just couldn’t do it anymore

I’ve covered friends in blankets and jackets

Who fell asleep in school

Because their homework kept them up till three that morning

 

We are a generation that has been taught

That the very concept of our self comes last

If it means that we would have to put off the work

 

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That is me

To this broken system, I am a number

A data point in a computer

Looking to see how I measure up against others,

How we, as a collective, measure against the rest of the world

 

My life is controlled by numbers

My class rank is 12 out of 308 students,

A 2 for the AP Chemistry exam,

Three 5’s for World History, English, and Government and Politics

2010 for my SATs, and 32 for ACTs

Numbers and acronyms that I don’t really even understand

But I was told they were important

So I worry about my performance

Compared to a vast world that simply doesn’t care about data--

I am in the Top 5% 

Of the graduating class 

Of  "who cares?"

 

Today, there is always another article coming out,

Another study about overstressed, borderline suicidal students

A discussion about the rise of drinking the day's stress away

Among high school Sophomores

An editoiral about why, oh why

Officials at Cornell Univeristy

Are forced to stand constant guard at a bridge

To make sure its undergraduates don't jump from it

All of this the culmination of a school career spent being told

That the only acceptable grade is an "A"

 

And you wonder at what this generation has become?

Manic, stressed, anxious, constantly exhausted

All in the pursuit of an acceptance letter?

You wonder why we are a generation that has no concept of self,

That cannot handle its own stress,

That can do advanced calculus 

But not balance a checkbook?

 

I will not stand for it.

I will not be a piece in this game.

I will not have my future dicated to me

On the basis of two parts

Of a test that only measures three aspects

Of my entire education.

I am not a number.

 

I am more than education has made me,

And education is more than what it has become.

But until we, the students, band together

To make our complaints known

We will forever be

Simply

Data points 

On a screen.

 

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