Monday, November 11, 2019
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Worst semester of life at a competitive high school

Naperville North High School in Chicago’s far-western suburbs is a good high school and boasts many successful graduates whose success in life had very little to do with high school, the Naperville Sun reports.


Naperville North football game in 2007 (Dann Wunderlich / Flickr CC)

Referring to the first semester of her senior year, when she dropped orchestra to make way for AP calculus, a 2008 graduate said, “It was the worst semester of my life,” the paper reported. Annika Socolofsky and turned to composing music to ease the stress, like when her calc teacher pulled her aside one time because her grade fell from an A to a B. She had found a new “love” in music and reported told her teacher she needed to take math less seriously.

“The stress culture really beats you down,” she was quoted as saying. “It was a huge relief to leave high school to head off to college.”

Many kids get the message that the only path to success goes through college, and for many of them, that’s how it really is. But for others, a different path is more appropriate and college will simply impair their progress.

A Change.org petition, started last week, has collected more than 1,800 signatures as of our publication date.

At Naperville North there is one path to success. This path is made clear from the day high school anticipation begins, and is reiterated until graduation. From the age of 13 every prospective Naperville North student understands that this path makes no exceptions, and those who wander off or fall behind are left for failure. Everyone here understands that there is no worse fate than failure.

If despite your experience as a Naperville North educator, you are still clueless as to what “your way” entails, allow us to explain further.

Our first impressions of the “Naperville North Way” probably began when we picked out our first schedule. As future freshmen our schedules were mostly packed with core classes, but we had two elective spaces free for art, music, language, tech … whatever passions we wished to explore. It became clear to all of us, on that day, that “passion” and “exploring” were not the “Naperville North Way.” It was not along the one true path to success.

Many people in their 20s, let alone in high school, haven’t figured out what their lives will be about. Heck, I even know a few people in their 40s who are still working it out.

And that’s kind of the point for these people—which includes many highly successful people in my own circle.

Stress only makes you sick. Believe me, when I was taken out of commission for a few months two and a half years ago, it was due to stress, the constant struggle to stay ahead of everyone else. But only so many people can ride each individual train to the various forms that success takes in our lives. Teachers have to bring that understanding to bear as they shape lives around them. Because if you can’t stay healthy, it doesn’t matter what you got in AP calc.

In fact, maybe it doesn’t matter at all anyway, even for healthy people. Happiness, passion, love—those are the things that matter, the aspects of life schools, students, and our larger communities should watch; the grades, the class rank, the money—those are mere outward signs that reflect nothing deeper than the superficial trifles they represent. There’s nothing more to money, for example, than just money: it advances no greater goal and creates nothing to put back into the world.

Write a piece of music, create something with your own intellect, successfully steer the life of a young person toward a good and appropriate education—now you’re talking!

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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