Act I, Scene I: A mother on the left, her high school age daughter on the right.The mother is angry, yet controlled, whereas the daughter is stressed and anxious. They are clearly arguing. The mother’s words are loud and clear, but the daughter’s voice cannot be heard. The daughter dramatically waves her arms and almost appears to be raising her voice even louder – though we cannot be sure – yet the words still do not go beyond her lips.
Does this scene look familiar? While at first glance this may appear to be a common argument between a mother and her daughter, ultimately this scene reveals an ever-growing social issue within twenty-first century American society. Act I, Scene I (continued): The mother is firmly telling her daughter that she needs to start working harder so as to ensure her getting into a four-year university when she graduates. The daughter is trying to say that she is working hard in school, but the pressure she is under is far too great. Her mother still does not hear her words. End Scene.
America is often characterized as being “the most competitive country in the world,” as stated by Jim Taylor in an article for Psychology Today.As Americans we live in a society in which competition is promoted and the idea of getting ahead, being the best, making the most money, and being the most successful falls in line with achieving the “American dream.” A big part of reaching that level of achievement is often found in the pursuit of higher-level education, which is why American society places so much pressure on students to attend a four-year university straight out of high school. If we look back at the scene of the argument between the mother and her daughter, the mother is a representation of American society as a whole. The emphasis she is trying to convey to her daughter regarding her academic future, while to some might appear to be quite harsh, is highly justified.
For starters, when a student is pushed through their high school years in the direction of attending a four-year university, they are in a position in which they can take advantage of opportunities that can lead them down an educational path toward a bright future.As Lorain County Community College discusses, the areas of study a person pursues in college can have a large impact on their future career. The same source goes on to state, “Online career assessment websites give you the opportunity to answer questions about yourself and your interests, and then get immediate feedback about the careers that best fit your personality.” Resources such as an “online career assessment” or a career counselor can be great tools in determining what career path a high school student wants to pursue in the future, thus making it important to know what areas of study are important when attending a four-year university. In contrast, if a high school student does not experience the pressure to attend a four-year university directly following graduation, they are more likely to be unmotivated and uninspired to look ahead to their future careers and areas of study, ultimately exposing them to potential setbacks in the future.
One of the most detrimental and difficult obstacles high school students often face down the road is the burden of the cost of college tuition. According to Liz Freedman from Butler University, “An estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as ‘undecided’…and an estimated 75 percent of students change their major at least once before graduation.” While at first glance the idea of a college student switching majors seems rather unproblematic, it is actually quite the opposite. As Maura Kastberg for Huffington Post evaluates, “States and lawmakers have been shifting more and more of the burden of paying for college away from taxpayers and toward the students and their families. As state funding in decreased, tuition is increased.
” The downside of switching majors or entering college with an “undecided” major increases the likelihood of a student having to attend college for an additional one, possibly even two, years to complete required major credits. With this comes the financial burden of paying additional tuition for higher-level education – a continuously increasing expense even for those who attend for the traditional four years. These issues can be reduced when students take initiative early on in their high school careers to explore what they want their college education to look like. Ultimately this initiative is a direct response to the pressure to attend a four-year university. In light of the justifications for the mother putting pressure on her daughter to attend a four-year university, let’s now look at the scene from the daughter’s perspective. At the core, the daughter is a representation of every high school student in America that has ever faced societal pressure to attend a four-year university.
While this pressure benefits students by encouraging them to look ahead at possible careers and areas of study (as discussed earlier), that same process of taking advantage of resources early on can also reveal that many students are not “developmentally ready to make effective decisions…such as choosing a major,” as Freedman also states. When looking ahead to their future, a student may use resources to decide on a college major and possible career path; however, even after completing these steps, some may still not be prepared to attend a four-year university. But according to Freedman, the pressure from society to attend a four-year university inevitably forces students to choose “a major based on influence and assumption rather than through an understanding of their own personal goals and values.” This mistake shows how the pressure to attend a four-year university can ultimately lead a student to make an unfavorable college decision and choice for area of study that could lead to the financial burdens discusses above, as well as the possibility of additional complications. These further complications consist of health problems that many high school students are experiencing in modern American society.Encyclopedia Britannica Online states, “Stress…[comes from] any environment or physical pressure that elicits a response from an organism.
” The environment in which American high school students live, more specifically the pressure within that environment to attend a four-year university directly following graduation, exists in such a way that stress is an inevitable “response” for students who are under that pressure. Furthermore, this stress can lead to dangerous and negative health problems which Encyclopedia Britannica Online goes on to list as including: “high blood glucose levels,” “type II diabetes,” “anxiety,” “high blood pressure,” and “cardiovascular disease.” These issues, in the context in which we are applying them, ultimately stem from the stress placed on high school students to attend a four-year university directly following graduation, thus revealing the negative, and potentially life-threatening, results of this kind of pressure. Act I, Scene II: Mother and daughter walk toward center of stage. They momentarily embrace, while lighting and music fade. End Scene.
At the culmination of Scene I, the mother and daughter both had logical opinions on the subject of the pressure to attend a four-year university straight out of high school. In the end, however, when the curtain falls, marking the conclusion of Scene II, the audience is left to decide what the final compromise was between the mother and daughter. Will the daughter seek assistance in finding her future college and career path? Will she search for ways to reduce the stress and anxiety she is experiencing, though the answer might lie in not attending college immediately following high school graduation? Whatever the compromise might be, it should reflect what the mother and daughter see as the best course of action for the daughter’s future, separate from what America expects of her.