School – A cause of children’s mental health crisis?

In this time of the pandemic , we are only beginning to understand the ravages of COVID.  Terms such as vaccine, boosters, isolation, rapid tests have become a regular part of our conversations.  If you’re a parent, you might add “learning loss” to that list. Pre-pandemic I shared a piece here about the frightening increase in stress, anxiety and depression among school-aged children.  Valerie Strauss (Washington Post) offers:

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated what has been a growing mental health crisis among young people, and now some school districts are trying to find ways to address the issue. (italics mine)

With violence in schools on the rise, many school districts are hiring more counselors and mental health professionals, and are trying to intervene with students before behavior becomes egregious. But is it enough?

In seeking answers to this growing crisis (hard to think any other word when we consider the fragility of our children right now), Strauss draws on the work of Vicki Abeles…

… a filmmaker and author who has chronicled education in this country for more than a decade… Abeles is a mother of three and a former Wall Street attorney who has most recently worked as an impact producer on the new documentary Chasing Childhood,” which looks at what children need to become happy, functioning adults.

Her 2010 film, “Race to Nowhere,” probed how America’s obsession on achievement harmed children’s mental health and learning. And her 2015 documentary, “Beyond Measure,” which looked at communities seeking educational change, was accompanied by the book “Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation.”

Abeles notes that the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy  joined the growing list of health officials calling for immediate action against this national emergency. “This is a moment to demand change,” Murthy urged.

Abeles continues…

That means starting this new year by finally reckoning with the demands placed on our kids that are making them sick. Our children’s lives — and particularly their academic lives — have been turned upside down over the last two years by the pandemic. But instead of seizing this moment of profound uncertainty as a chance to reimagine schooling, we’ve pushed students right back into a broken educational system that prioritizes achievement over emotional resilience.

Long before covid-19 exacerbated the current mental health crisis among children and teens, studies consistently found that a toxic culture of pressure and measurement in our schools is a key culprit contributing to student stress, anxiety and depression. Accompanied by a relentless drumbeat for high grades, college admissions and perfect test scores, our schools have long been competitive, disempowering environments for students.

I know that not everyone who reads this will agree with my belief in what constitutes what a  healthy community/society.  I continue to believe that such health is measured by the way that society/community cares for its weakest, its oldest, its youngest.  Those struggling with stress, anxiety and/or depression can be in any one of these categories.  They need our concern, our help, our support.  Our kids are crying out for that support.

It is clear that the past two years have been extremely stressful for many adults… people who have lost jobs, lost income, lost family members, worried about the safety of their kids, worried what effect so-called learning loss will have on the future plans for their kids.

I’m certain that for some/many the first response might be… ‘kids shouldn’t be stressed.  Afterall, we all have had to do school. I survived.  We all survived. Kids just need to toughen up’.  I don’t pretend to know why school and school years seem so stressful for our kids.  That doesn’t mean that I can ignore the information about the mental health status of our kids.  It doesn’t mean that things like making kindergarten the new first grade, or pressuring all kids to read at a desired level by the end of third grade, or sitting for hours taking state tests that will result in labeling, opening or closing doors to the “smart” classes, etc.  are not causing our kids to respond in new, unhealthy, and potentially dangerous  ways.

School as it has developed over the past 30+ years is not serving our kids well.  On the contrary, it has been the cause of serious mental health issues.  Abeles concludes…

Long before covid-19 exacerbated the current mental health crisis among children and teens, studies consistently found that a toxic culture of pressure and measurement in our schools is a key culprit contributing to student stress, anxiety and depression. Accompanied by a relentless drumbeat for high grades, college admissions and perfect test scores, our schools have long been competitive, disempowering environments for students.

What would happen if we acknowledged that this might be true?  How many reports, school shootings, depressed kids do we need to see before we continue to moan a bit and move on?

What if that means starting this new year by finally reckoning with the demands placed on our kids that are making them sick. Our children’s lives — and particularly their academic lives — have been turned upside down over the last two years by the pandemic. But instead of seizing this moment of profound uncertainty as a chance to reimagine schooling, we’ve pushed students right back into a broken educational system that prioritizes achievement over emotional resilience. (italics mine)

 Thank you.

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What if schooling is a mental health threat?

In this time of the pandemic , we are only beginning to understand the ravages of COVID.  Terms such as vaccine, boosters, isolation, rapid tests have become a regular part of our conversations.  If you’re a parent, you might add “learning loss” to that list. Pre-pandemic I shared a piece here about the frightening increase in stress, anxiety and depression among school-aged children.  Now Valerie Strauss (Washington Post) offers:

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated what has been a growing mental health crisis among young people, and now some school districts are trying to find ways to address the issue. (italics mine)

With violence in schools on the rise, many school districts are hiring more counselors and mental health professionals, and are trying to intervene with students before behavior becomes egregious. But is it enough?

In seeking answers to this growing crisis (hard to think any other word when we consider the fragility of our children right now), Strauss draws on the work of Vicki Abeles…

… a filmmaker and author who has chronicled education in this country for more than a decade… Abeles is a mother of three and a former Wall Street attorney who has most recently worked as an impact producer on the new documentary Chasing Childhood,” which looks at what children need to become happy, functioning adults.

Her 2010 film, “Race to Nowhere,” probed how America’s obsession on achievement harmed children’s mental health and learning. And her 2015 documentary, “Beyond Measure,” which looked at communities seeking educational change, was accompanied by the book “Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation.”

Abeles notes that the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy  joined the growing list of health officials calling for immediate action against this national emergency. “This is a moment to demand change,” Murthy urged.

Abeles continues…

That means starting this new year by finally reckoning with the demands placed on our kids that are making them sick. Our children’s lives — and particularly their academic lives — have been turned upside down over the last two years by the pandemic. But instead of seizing this moment of profound uncertainty as a chance to reimagine schooling, we’ve pushed students right back into a broken educational system that prioritizes achievement over emotional resilience.

Long before covid-19 exacerbated the current mental health crisis among children and teens, studies consistently found that a toxic culture of pressure and measurement in our schools is a key culprit contributing to student stress, anxiety and depression. Accompanied by a relentless drumbeat for high grades, college admissions and perfect test scores, our schools have long been competitive, disempowering environments for students.

I know that not everyone who reads this will agree with my belief in what constitutes what a  healthy community/society.  I continue to believe that such health is measured by the way that society/community cares for its weakest, its oldest, its youngest.  Those struggling with stress, anxiety and/or depression can be in any one of these categories.  They need our concern, our help, our support.  Our kids are crying out for that support.

It is clear that the past two years have been extremely stressful for many adults… people who have lost jobs, lost income, lost family members, worried about the safety of their kids, worried what effect so-called learning loss will have on the future plans for their kids.

I’m certain that for some/many the first response might be… ‘kids shouldn’t be stressed.  Afterall, we all have had to do school. I survived.  We all survived. Kids just need to toughen up’.  I don’t pretend to know why school and school years seem so stressful for our kids.  That doesn’t mean that I can ignore the information about the mental health status of our kids.  It doesn’t mean that things like making kindergarten the new first grade, or pressuring all kids to read at a desired level by the end of third grade, or sitting for hours taking state tests that will result in labeling, opening or closing doors to the “smart” classes, etc.  are not causing our kids to respond in new, unhealthy, and potentially dangerous  ways.

School as it has developed over the past 30+ years is not serving our kids well.  On the contrary, it has been the cause of serious mental health issues.  Abeles concludes…

Long before covid-19 exacerbated the current mental health crisis among children and teens, studies consistently found that a toxic culture of pressure and measurement in our schools is a key culprit contributing to student stress, anxiety and depression. Accompanied by a relentless drumbeat for high grades, college admissions and perfect test scores, our schools have long been competitive, disempowering environments for students.

What would happen if we acknowledged that this might be true?  How many reports, school shootings, depressed kids do we need to see before we continue to moan a bit and move on?

What if that means starting this new year by finally reckoning with the demands placed on our kids that are making them sick. Our children’s lives — and particularly their academic lives — have been turned upside down over the last two years by the pandemic. But instead of seizing this moment of profound uncertainty as a chance to reimagine schooling, we’ve pushed students right back into a broken educational system that prioritizes achievement over emotional resilience. (italics mine)

 

Thank you.