For the majority of schools in America, students are graded on a letter scale. It is common knowledge that an ‘A’ represents success and an ‘F’ represents failure. However, research has shown that as students strive to be “straight A students,” their mental health and self-image have been deteriorating.

A teacher at Cheney High School stopped giving students zeroes in 2016. The students still receive a 50%, but that is the lowest the teacher goes. He believes that the zero is an additional, unnecessary punishment. He wants the kids to understand that they didn’t reach the expectations, but he doesn’t want to crush their spirit or desire to learn by giving them a zero. To him, a zero represents complete failure. He believes that when students receive zeroes, it is harder for them to bounce back than when they receive even a 50%.  Since he made this change, he has seen an increase in resilience.

An article by the Huffington Post says that 62% of students reported suffering from perpetual anxiety. Many students are overwhelmed by the decline in top college acceptance rates. In attempt to earn a place at those colleges, students overwhelm themselves with AP and honors classes, extracurriculars, jobs, volunteer positions, internships, etc all while being expected to sleep, exercise, socialize, and help at home. At some point, something has to give and unfortunately, normally, that is our mental health. The stress “eats away at us. It erodes our sense of wellbeing.”  We are attempting to reach an impossibly high bar and when we fail to reach it, it damages out self-image. It has also been noted that students don’t take risks, try anything new, or even ask questions because of the fear of failure or seeming dumb.

Most high school students live lives seemingly controlled by school. Stressed is the new normal and days with little to no stress becoming increasingly rare the closer we are to graduation. We are held to standards of perfection and our self worth is measured by our GPA, AP scores, and number of extracurricular activities we participate in; this only makes for unhappy and unhealthy people.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Creating a Cult of Perfectionism by Maggie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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2 Comments
  1. Katherine 4 weeks ago

    These are all great points and they are all very compelling! I loved how you commented on the decline in acceptance rates at top colleges because that is very applicable and often understated. The Cheney High School teacher has an interesting approach and I’m glad you included that in your response. I was able to relate to quite a lot of this! Nice job, Maggie!

  2. Jacob 4 weeks ago

    Very excellent points, Maggie! I think that you definitely nailed down the idea of how students are striving to become “straight A” students. The direct link to anxiety was a very convincing one, and it’s something that’s tangibly and visibly present in my own day-to-day life. It’s something that I struggle with, and many others do. That was beautifully conveyed here! Well done!

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