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;
Get a job
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
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
On a screen.