When I found out I got into Providence College, I was sitting in locker room four at Rochester Ice Arena in Rochester, New Hampshire, surrounded by my ice hockey teammates after a hard-fought victory against York High School. After the initial alarm over my ear-piercing shriek subsided, pretty much everyone was happy for me. Was anyone bitter, angry, or emotionally destroyed over my acceptance to college? Not that I can recall.
Recently, some schools in New York have banned students from discussing their college acceptances, particularly if they were admitted into Ivy League or top-tier schools. The rationale behind this was to protect the feelings of people who were denied acceptance to prestigious universities. At the Calhoun School,
“seniors have a weekly class with the college guidance counselor, in which they discuss “the appropriate way to share news of acceptance,” said Sarah Tarrant, director of college counseling. “The weekly conversation reins in kids who might run around yelling, ‘I got in! I got in!’ ”
And to that I say: give me a freaking break.
Did I get into every school I applied to? No! Did I weep for several hours upon denial from one of my top choice schools? You bet I did! Did some of my friends get in when I didn’t? Yes! That’s life.
Not everyone is going to get into every school to which they apply. They’re not going to get every job they apply for after school either. The fact that schools like Horace Mann, Packer Collegiate Institute, and the Bronx High School of Science all have policies concerning when students can reveal what college they’re going to (or, in the case of Horace Mann, what sweatshirts they can wear) is incredibly disturbing. These are some of the top high school students in the country, and the students who are doing the best, working the hardest, and gaining acceptance into Ivy League schools are essentially being told that their achievements aren’t worth sharing due to the potential bruised egos of their classmates.
What happened to celebrating achievement? If I got into an Ivy League school, I’d probably scream about it from a bullhorn on the top of a building. If my best friend in high school got into an Ivy I’d probably do the same thing. It’s a fantastic accomplishment! It should be celebrated! We shouldn’t shame top grads into silence over their accomplishments because someone else didn’t get into the same school.
I was particularly upset about the fact that teachers at the Bronx High School of Science were instructed not to congratulate students if they were accepted to top-tier schools. Is Billy really going to be that emotionally destroyed if Mr. Jones congratulates Tommy on getting into Middlebury? Has Billy not learned in his 18 years of life how to deal with disappointments? That’s the issue we should be focusing on.
When my classmates at Scarborough High School received acceptance into Ivy League or other top schools, we didn’t feel offended or have our feelings hurt by their success. Quite the contrary; we were pretty proud of them. Even when my classmates got accepted into less-prestigious schools, we were still happy for them and their achievements.
America’s self-esteem obsession will end up harming the nation. The self-esteem movement has really blossomed during my generation; everyone in youth soccer got a trophy, no matter if their team went undefeated or lost every single game. In my middle school, every student was “student of the month” at some point in the year, whether or not they actually did something spectacular. Honors courses in my high school were no longer called “honors”— they were known on our transcripts as being “level four” courses. Non-college prep coursework was “level two.” No actual labels— that might hurt feelings.
It’s great to feel good about yourself and have an elevated level of self-esteem if it’s actually merited. High self-esteem won’t solve a math problem, write a coherent essay, or launch a rocket into space. These are skills needed to succeed in the workforce. American 12th graders currently rank near the bottom of industrialized nations in math and physics, and the United States has effectively killed off NASA. Great!
American education is in a state that rewards “meeting the standards” and is more concerned with protecting feelings than celebrating accomplishments. This mentality has to change, or we’re doomed for a future similar to that in Idiocracy.