Dystopian novels talk of a far off future, one that many consider to be impossible. We view pieces like the Hunger Games as works of pure fiction, serving only the purpose of entertainment. To us, a rat race for the top, where victory is survival and defeat is death seems like an absurd concept. A culture designed around cheering and training one to scramble to the top of the pile, and being willing to kill to succeed sounds like a terrible, impossible notion. Yet, we often find ourselves in our own Hunger Games of sorts in school.
Our culture revolves around the college admissions process, as if getting in Harvard determines if your life will be a success or a failure. We find ourselves willing to subject ourselves to any conditions to get ahead. We fill our schedules with classes that we don’t have any interest in to make our resumes look better and act as if the difference between an A and a B was the difference between life and death. Together as a community, we bind together and measure our dicks by the number of AP classes we take and our SAT scores. With such a culture, is it any surprise that many take it poorly?
We seem to think that our SAT and AP scores are not just a measure of our performance on one test, but a reflection of our character. In believing that, we believe that the CollegeBoard is the all-powerful entity, the deity that guides us through life. We buy into a system built around funding one company, feeding its monopoly in an effort to look better to colleges and universities. We measure our character by a score we receive on a test, based on a subject you are unlikely to ever care about. When you break down the culture like that, doesn’t it seem ludicrous?
Cheating is a well-known issue around campus, probably one that deserves its own piece. Here I will just discuss the role it has in the “get into college” culture. I previously stated that we would be willing to do anything to get ahead in the admissions process, and cheating is a part of that. When you’re taking 5 AP classes, it’s impossible to fully master the material in all of them, and you end up choosing to game the system instead. When you’re taking courses that you don’t have actual interest in, what incentive is there for you to try to learn or master the material? Cheating is an easy way out in these circumstances. It’s also an easy fix for those who need to bring themselves over the edge from an 89 to a 90, since the difference between an A and a B is as significant as finding actual meaning in life.
The culture of pressure and pushing ahead in the four year rat race of high school can lead many to crack. It isn’t so surprising that many find school to be boring and unenticing, when they’re forced to fill up their schedules with classes they don’t care about in order to “get ahead.” Depression seems like a natural side effect of this culture, which can even lead to suicide. Yet we continue to push forward with the mentality that we have to win the rat race. We choose to create a culture where “victory” in the college admissions process is survival, and “failure” is condemning you to work at McDonald’s.
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