Artificial Maturity

Helping kids meet the challenge of becoming authentic adults

Students are Overwhelmed but Under-Challenged

The problem is a paradox.

It’s been difficult to put my finger on what’s happening among students in today’s culture. On the one hand, 94 percent of college students say the top word to describe their life is “overwhelmed.” About half say they are so overwhelmed it is almost difficult to function, and nearly one in 10 have considered suicide in the last year. 

At the same time, we see volumes of reports that lead me to believe they are under-challenged. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that not only does a large percentage of students cheat on tests, but so do the teachers who lead them. Once the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal broke, the AJC uncovered 196 school districts who also cheat. Sadly, investigations on the whole ordeal have been extremely lax; schools and students want to minimize and gloss over the flaw.

Not long ago, the U.S. Army re-shaped their training to make it easier for young recruits to make it as a soldier. This was due to both young soldiers failing to meet the standards and the fact that the Army was failing to reach their quota of recruits. While many of the changes made sense, military experts like James Martin (PA), warned we must run the risk of graduating sub-standard soldiers. Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein published a report that said the state of our youth is now an issue of national security. About 75 percent of teens today are not even eligible for the military due to obesity, criminal records, or failing to graduate.

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The problem is a paradox: Kids today are both overwhelmed and under-challenged. They’re busier than ever, but not with meaningful activities that prepare them for life. 

Next week, I will blog about how we can better lead them.

Any thoughts you have on this issue? What paradoxes do you see?

Tim Elmore is the founder and president of Growing Leaders, an international non-profit organization created to develop emerging leaders.

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