Something’s foul in the state of our schools.

In her most recent episode, Katie Couric examines chronic fatigue in high school students who are buckling under the weight of academic performance on her CBS Webcast @KatieCouric.

Tiger Mom might growl at this one. Vicki Abeles, director of the documentary “Race to Nowhere,” talks about the high levels of stress and fatigue in U.S. schools and how bettering school systems could improve the lives of kids and young adults. Some of the touch points in this segment include:

  • Overscheduling
  • Lack of down time
  • Never being outside
  • Too narrow definition of ‘success’
  • Always looking to the next step instead of being present
  • Quantity-driven model (as if more is, well, more)
  • Evaporation of knowledge (cramming and forgetting)
  • Stigmatizing failure

Why is this happening?

“For starters, it’s coming from our pressure-cooker culture,” says Vicki. But she also points to parents, college admissions and the media as further factors leading kids down a path of depression and ‘checking out’ because they can’t handle the pressures placed on them in our post-information age society.

Another aspect that has led to these issues is teachers having to ‘teach to the test’ instead of fostering critical thinking that moves beyond regurgitation.

“This isn’t just about our education system,” Vicki admits. “Our schools are a microcosm of our greater culture and we’ve just gotten so afraid.”

Sustained fear, as we know, is the greatest energy blocker. It is what holds us back from taking that leap of faith.

“We need to look at the very unhealthy culture that exists in many of our schools,” Vicki continues. “We need to remember that our teenagers’ bodies and minds are still growing and developing. That’s the wrong time to give them our unbalanced adult lives. They need the time and the space to develop all the skills that will later serve them.”

What if we lived in a world in which adult lives were balanced, too? What if we lived in alignment with our truest purpose, going for what makes our heart sing, not sink?

As with our time abundant versus time-starved attitude, it is going to take a collective mindshift around what a ‘good education’ means. A sleep-deprived teen isn’t going to live up to his or her potential.

Power to the Students! Power of Slow to the people!

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