As a student who will have taken fifteen AP exams at the end of this year, I feel a need to respond to the article you published in your last issue. It has spurred some interesting discussion and I would like to add my experience to the conglomeration of opinions that are floating around Malden High School and the world of education.
Within the world of secondary education, college is becoming the biggest defining factor for more and more students. But why do we want to go to college so badly? A job that leads to a good life. That’s the biggest reason why most people want to go to college today. With an economy that is being based on cutting-edge technology, there is a lot of incentive for everyone to become educated. Companies want more people with a college degree so that the supply of laborers can decrease the cost of the hiring. Workers (us high school students) want a college degree for the chance of that big paycheck that can satisfy all of our consumer needs, from buying the nicest clothes to buying the biggest house.
That is the ideal of the American Dream. In a place like Malden, with a large population of immigrants, the American Dream is ever present and many are willing to do almost anything for it. This, I believe, is the heart of the reason why so many students are throwing themselves at AP classes, keeping themselves up through excruciating hours that are extended because of sports and extracurricular activities. They believe this is what will lead them to a good college, the keystone of the American Dream. After all, if someone told you that you do not have to sit through another hour of confusing Calculus or write up another essay for enigmatic English, and you will be able to buy anything you want, would you say yes? I would say yes. But does that mean I will never look back on English or Calculus or any other subject from school again? No. Even if I can buy all the things that I want, I cannot and will not abandon my studies. Are you probably calling me a nerd right now? Go ahead. But I love learning. This is why I force myself to take every AP class available. I don’t do it because I think colleges will like me better (even though they do). I don’t do it because I think it will lead me to a good life (even though it might). I do it because I love learning. Sure, there are a lot of benefits to learning and being successful in STEM fields. But for me, it’s really just a bonus, a cherry on top of the pie. I would not be completely derailed if being academically successful no longer guarantees that American Dream.
I believe that passion should be the primary motivation for any pursuit, not some superficial societal recognition. As a student, I enjoy my learning process. Sure, I’ll procrastinate as much as the next student. During such moments, it is nice to have some external pressures like deadlines and grades to remind me to get my **** together. However, when I make a decision to commit to something like a class or an extracurricular activity, the idea of adding to my resume to impress somebody isn’t what pushes me to do it. The idea that I’ll enjoy the activity whether it’s because it’ll help me grow as a person or a student or it’s because I genuinely enjoy the activity is why I choose to pursue something. If ever you find yourself that you’re doing something because of extrinsic motivations, chances are, you probably won’t do a good job at it and you’ll end up disliking it. This is what I think Jasper was observing in AP classes. Many students aren’t genuinely passionate about the class that they’re taking. If you look hard around you, you might notice those students.
All I have left to say is stop. Stop doing things to gain societal approval. Stop volunteering because it looks good on your resume. Stop taking AP classes because it looks good on your transcript. Sure, those are nice motivators. But let those motivators only be a small factor in why you have chosen to pursue something. Find joy in what you do, not recognition.
So I guess you must want to know how well I have followed my own belief. I admit, it’s hard. All these snow days have certainly helped to infect me with senioritis. But that doesn’t mean I’ll drop all my work. I have every intention to follow through with all my commitments even if that means that I’ll have to procrastinate. But I’ll be able to do that because I truly believe that I have something more to gain than a sticker on my resume.
This letter to the editor was submitted by Eugene Szeto. If you have an opinion or an idea of something to cover that you have intimate knowledge about, or if you simply want to communicate with the school, submit a letter to the editor to J387 or talk to a member of the Blue & Gold staff for a chance to be featured in our next edition!