Overreaching on overachievement

See Jane. See Jane study. See Jane's mom insist she take five AP courses, study six hours each night, perform 20 hours a week of community service, and earn a black belt in karate, all to impress Stanford's admissions officers. See Jane have a nervous breakdown. The Washington Post's Jay Mathews doesn't doubt Jane's story, but he doesn't think it typical. Hence his assault on The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, part of a growing number of hand-wringing books and pitying studies of how we work our children too hard. In a handful of overwrought and upscale communities such as Winnetka, Scarsdale, and San Marino, "Jane's" story may be the norm, says Mathews. But across the length and breadth of the land, most students aren't working anywhere near that hard--a fact made clear by NAEP scores, studies of college freshmen, and AP data. "Our real national problem," says Matthews, "is not that we ask most teens to do too much, but too little." In other words, it's not just Jane's addiction to overworking we need to worry about, but all the "plain" Janes, too.

"Too Few Overachievers: Academically Stressed Students Aren't the Country's Norm," by Jay Mathews, Washington Post, August 21, 2006

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