Disillusioned are the minds of youth, long since promised the economic certainty of post-secondary degree acquirement. Although truthful in the eyes of a prosperous middle class of a generation passed, in the current landscape of exceedingly complicated times, it seems that such a simple solution is no longer applicable.
The question tattooed on the minds of senior high school students this year rings universal: “ What is next?”
This is a question of unparalleled importance in a young person’s life, but in a society centered on efficiency and consumption students increasingly feel the pressure to enter post secondary education immediately.
Jenna Kerry, a Grade 12 student at Sacred Heart Catholic High school and future University of Ottawa undergraduate said, “All my friends talk about is the university they are going to—which makes me feel like I have to go to not fall behind. They look down on people who don’t go.”
With the current school system basing such high precedence on age-categorized achievement via standardized testing, it is no wonder that students feel that there is a standard of human development. The breakdown of courses into streams of University and College in the senior years of high school can give students the impression of next-step preparation rather than being fully engaged in present educational pursuits. The truth of the matter is that when you are constantly looking ahead, you miss what is right in front of you.
This notion of standard could be the reason why in a survey of 43,000 high school students, The Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics found that one out of three high school students acknowledged to plagiarizing an assignment and that 59% of high school students admitted to cheating on a test this year alone.
When over half of students openly admit to cheating for personal gain, it may seem necessary to state that as a society we may be confusing the ideas of schooling and education. There stands a bold line of division, education being the individual pursuit of enlightenment, schooling being defined as a systematic means of social conditioning.
Christina Alulio, a first-year student at McMaster University said, “ I wish I took a gap year. I rushed into something I wasn’t sure about. I felt a lot of parental pressure. There is some widespread belief in society today that university is a right of passage.”
The exceeding pressure faced by students to conform at an age of overwhelming self-discovery could be the reason why depression rates among first-year university students are on the rise, no more signified than in early December when a first-year University of Guelph student attempted to kill himself on live video stream in his dorm room or than the even more recent suicide of 19 year old, Madison Holleran, just days ago at the University of Pennsylvania .
In a Bank of Montreal survey, they estimated that on average, post-secondary students would graduate with a debt of over 26,000 dollars, tuition having tripled since 1990.
As more students enter university out of pressured decision, only to face the pressures of student debt and intense labor market competition due to credential inflation caused by high numbers of graduates, it stands necessary to re-evaluate how we think about post-secondary education. If we continue as a society to wrongly define education as a series of stepping-stones, students will continue to fall between the cracks. We must not ignore our greatest strength as humans— diversity.