Student: Ignore societal pressure; set your own pace

The amount of pressure put on students to stay with their age group in this country’s educational system is pointless and toxic. The implicit shame of taking an extra year or two at any stage in one’s education starts out on the shoulders of the parents, but as the student grows older and becomes more aware of societal norms he or she feels the increasing pressure to keep up with everyone else in their age group.

My mother is a kindergarten teacher in a school with a large population of students who have learning disabilities. Often times she has to make the difficult decision to retain those students who would benefit from another year of fundamentals. But making the decision usually is not the most difficult part of this process. It is actually the act of meeting with the student’s parents and explaining why their child needs to take an extra year in his or her education. Hearing this news is absolutely cataclysmic to parents. They often react as if they were being told that their child was being kicked out of school altogether. While the school is only attempting to better meet the needs of their student, parents see this situation as something out of their worst nightmares. What will happen when child falls behind the rest of the kids in his or her age group?
Jump forward about twelve years and the same prospect becomes a weight on the shoulders of the student. Grade school is hard, and you work tirelessly to get “Good Grades” so that a “Good College” will want to offer you admission. Never mind actually retaining the information from your 10th grade biology class for longer than the year that you need it for testing.

As long as your grades are good, you’ll just figure everything out in college. This is the norm, because society has decided that the moment you turn 18 years old you gain the capability to take care of yourself and your educational endeavors completely autonomously no matter your background, learning style, or maturity level. Barring the idea that people are individuals who need different amounts of time to mature and prepare for life on their own, the issue of money persists. What if you put all of that work into getting your “Good Grades” to impress your “Good College” and you are ready to move on like the rest of the students in your grade, but you just do not have the money to afford to go to college? Do you stay home for a year or two and work before you leave for school to save up money, thus falling behind everyone else in your high school graduating class? Do you risk the embarrassment of being the only one left back home while everyone else moves away to school for the comfort of financial safety?

The idea of finishing school a little later than the people you started kindergarten with is so horrifying to most millennials that the concept of staying home to save money does not even cross their minds. No, it is better just to dive headfirst into tens of thousands of dollars or more in debt and deal with it a few years later. Because if you are not graduating from college four years from the day you graduated high school, you have fallen behind.

Excuse my apparent ignorance for not understanding, but fallen behind what, exactly? When you are 36 years old and working in an office next door to someone who is 35 years old and performing the same job as you, are people really going to raise their eyebrows at how much older you are than your peer? Why is there so much pressure on students to do everything exactly the same way as every other student born in their year? What is the difference between starting college at 18 and starting at 20? Or 25?

This crazy pressure to keep up that is put upon students in the U.S. from day one of the educational process is causing damage to their mental and financial stability.

If you achieve everything you have been working for, it makes no actual difference what your age is when you get there, because the point is that you have made it. Repeating a year of school that just did not seem to agree with you the first time around should not be a shameful thing, and neither should taking a year or two to prepare for living on your own before going away to college. If everyone were to go at his or her own pace, people would find themselves feeling less of a need to keep up with the crowd and more of a need to take care of and do what is best for themselves.