Overachieving High School Students Can't Stop Overachieving

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High school. What we remember of it is generally fond, if slightly uncomfortable, sort of like the time we were shoved into a locker and left there until, happily, we were rescued by our best friend. It's all a bit fuzzy, but we remember there were four years, each with a special aspect of its own: The trials of starting out as a wee freshman; the sophomore year, when we finally got our driver's license; junior year, the feeling of upperclassmanship and sophistication; senior year, getting ready for college, getting ready to move on. Each of those years was important, and even though we may not have enjoyed every single little portion of them, we wouldn't forgo any of them. But now, writes Sue Shellenbarger in The Wall Street Journal, some kids are doing this willingly. As if kids aren't growing up fast enough (crazy kids!), there is a trend toward the three-year high school. Three years! This is stressful, even to someone whose SAT-taking days are long forgotten. How stressful? Take the example of Nicholas Myers of Fishers, Indiana: 

With planning and foresight, Nicholas Myers of Fishers, Ind., finished high school in three years. He took required senior-year classes early and completed extra courses online. There were, of course, trade-offs: He passed up senior prom and missed a trip to New York City with the finance club.

Myers is now 18 and finishing his freshman year in college and says it's all "worth it." But missing prom? Missing an opportunity to get rowdy in New York City with the kids from the finance club? These are important rites of passage; things a kid should experience! And, Myers, in fact, is a little scary at this point, so successful and grown-up and achievement-oriented he is at his young age. You'd imagine this could have been tempered a bit had he only cut some classes, stayed out late, and gotten grounded after a wild prom night: "Nowadays we have CEOs in their 20s," he says. "If I get out a year early, that's a year extra of pay, and that's a year earlier of retirement. That's a whole year of my time that I can do whatever I want—make some money, invest some money or just relax." 


The reasons for this new "trend," which is, apparently, being pushed forward by various states, are economic and also "motivational." A little planning, a little pressure, and kids can finish faster, which means lower taxpayer costs for schools and "no senior slump." (The senior slump reasoning is odd, as graduating early doesn't mean you're not a senior, but some researchers claim this can help beat "senioritis" in any case.) But beyond that, isn't senioritis, like detention, like skipping class to go to Hardee's and hang out in the parking lot, like learning from your mistakes and growing up all in due time, something we should all get to experience? Are we just speeding kids through life now? If they can finish in three years, why not two? Why not Doogie Howser it and go straight to college from nursery school and become kiddie doctors and put all of us old folks to shame faster than is already being done? Because that's part of the problem, too...if we're speeding kids through life, those who came before will be forced to contend with them in the job market, and elsewhere, even sooner. Let's face it. This is a slippery slope to kindergarteners who are also CEOs, and no one wants that. Life's hard enough already. High school is four years for a reason.

Image via Shutterstock by Vlue.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.