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Pressures to succeed affect student health

Senior Lecturer Denise Pope
Senior Lecturer Denise Pope

Pressures to succeed affect student health

Higher incidences of stress, anxiety, and mental disorders connected to academic duress, says Pope.

C. M. Rubin interviews Denise Pope of Stanford University about academic pressure and student mental health in the Global Search for Education.

The desire for successful children in a performance-based culture often consumes us before we realize it. “More is better” might innocently trickle into the mindset, but before you know it, the winner take all dynamics of a competitive society can easily become a part of our everyday lives.  Whether it’s coming from inside or outside of school, the need for our children to succeed is coming at us fast and consistently.

I recently found myself pondering what style of parenting ultimately creates the best foundation for our children.  Amy Chua (Battle  Hymn of the Tiger Mother) on the one hand proposed that the best way for a parent to prepare kids for a successful future is to stress academic performance, never accept a mediocre grade, and instill a deep respect for authority.  Vicki Abeles (Race to Nowhere) was concerned that performance pressure on kids is destroying self-esteem and happiness, and stifling creativity.

Should self-esteem and happiness come before accomplishment, or accomplishment before self-esteem?  Perhaps success might be a delicate balance between the two that we each must define for ourselves and then evaluate on a regular basis?

This is the first of three in depth looks at student health and engagement with learning. This week I have the pleasure of sharing the perspectives of Dr. Denise Pope, Stanford University School of Education.  Pope specializes in student engagement, curriculum studies, qualitative research methods, and service learning. She founded and served as director of Stressed-Out Students (SOS), the predecessor to Challenge Success.  Her book, Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students, was awarded Notable Book in Education by the American School Board Journal.

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