Under “API” Pressure - May 15, 2012

Tigers don’t like to live in wide open spaces.  They prefer forests and tall, grassy areas to shield them from the sun.  They prefer to be camouflaged to eye their prey.

 

In Silicon Valley, they live in the great, wide open.  They commune in clusters, in cul-de-sacs, suburban streets and neighborhoods surrounding select schools.  There is a Kumon center nestled in the nearest strip mall and the API scores are often approaching 1000.

 

Schools offer a foundation for the basics in education, but the real learning occurs at home and in outside tutoring facilities. Well-meaning parents searching for a better education for their children flock to these now high-priced neighborhoods, naïve that it’s the cubs that spike the API scores and not necessarily the system.

 

According to the Department of Education’s website, Monta Vista High School, located in Cupertino, has a total enrollment of 1871 for 2011.  Of those 1871 students, 1450 are Asian.  The 2011 API growth target is 949 for the school and 964 for Asians alone.

 

I am not biased or exaggerating to build my case.  These are statistics collected by the state.  I am a proud, first generation, Indian-American.

 

Cub competition is fierce.  Is it too fierce?  Is student success in these areas leading to parental failure?  Are love, support and communication being replaced with coaching and unrealistic expectation?  Work/life balance are often promoted on company websites, why not on school websites?

 

In 2009, 4 Gunn High School students committed suicide on the same tracks of the same station in Palo Alto.  Journalists labeled the acts an unfortunate cluster and speculated the subsequent jumpers may have been copycats.  But what were they copycatting?  Was it just the act or was the underlying reason the same?  Is the Silicon Valley student pressure cooker causing a meltdown?

 

Last year, my husband worked in San Francisco and would take Caltrain home in the evenings.  At least twice a month, the train would be stopped somewhere between Burlingame and Mountain View, due to a death on the tracks.  There were rumors the incidents weren’t accidents, but it wasn’t always confirmed.  Each time he texted me he would be late, I could feel my chest tighten and my mind wander to that dark place filled with all of the “what ifs” a parent worries about.

 

Shows like Dateline and 20/20 all cover cyberbullying, but what about how to deal with academic pressure?  Caltrain has spent $110,000 for suicide prevention signs all along their line.  Maybe there should be signs to spark parental awareness, like “when was the last time you asked your child how they are feeling?”, so we won’t lose anymore cubs.

 

I can’t mute or stop Queen’s Under Pressure from pounding in my head.  I just hope my daughter never puts this track on mental repeat.

 

Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure – that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets
Um ba ba be
Um ba ba be
De day da
Ee day da – that’s o.k.
It’s the terror of knowing
What the world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming ‘Let me out’
Pray tomorrow – gets me higher

 

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