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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Life without time is unthinkable. After all, our very existence is nestled neatly betwixt two time notations: the date of our birth and the date of our passing. What we do within those two notations is up to us.

But what happens to those of us left behind when someone’s second time notation comes to pass? How do we grieve the loss and help our children understand it, too?

Katie Couric, Jeanette Betancourt and Sesame Street’s Elmo are talking about these very issues tonight at 8 pm ET on the CBS webcast @katiecouric. You can view it by clicking on this link Watch CBS News Videos Online. The most touching part is how real Katie is throughout the entire interview. She has suffered the loss of her husband and her sister, Emily, whose name graces the cancer center that recently  opened in my hometown of Charlottesville, VA.

May we embrace each day with gladness. The pain this life brings is a reminder that we are alive. Cherish each moment, for in each day comes the wisdom of our years.