While the annoying cultural cliche suggests that our years in school should be the best times of our lives, for many of us it is actually a traumatizing experience that has lifelong consequences for our mental health. After graduation, many of us are left to work through issues such as anxiety, depression, low-self esteem, dependence on authority, need for external validation and a long list of mental health problems that can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, antisocial behavior, or worse.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people over the age of 15, and the third-leading cause for those over 10. According to statistics from the CDC, over the past 10 years, the suicide rate for White children and teens between the ages of 10 and 17 was up 70 percent, and up 77 percent among African-American children. Since mental health is such a serious problem among teens, it is time to start examining the place where they spend the vast majority of their time.
Peter Gray of Psychology Today and The Foundation for Economic Education has pointed out that suicide rates among teens actually increase during the school year, citing numerous studies.
During extensive research on the subject, Gray found this correlation in data that was recorded of children's emergency psychiatric visits at Connecticut Children’s Mental Center in Hartford. The data shows an obvious decline in teenage psychiatric visits during the summer months, which is somewhat of a statistical anomaly considering the fact that students have more time to themselves during the summer, and emergency visits, in general, rise drastically during the summer, according to the CDC.
Between the years of 2011 and 2013, Connecticut Children’s Mental Center would typically have anywhere between roughly 120 to 180 psychiatric visits per month when school was in sessions, but dropped below 70 in the middle of the summer, and stayed around 100 in the months surrounding summer.
More recently, in 2015, a study led by psychiatrist Collin Lueck from the University of Southern California found similar results when looking through the books of a large pediatric emergency mental health center in Los Angeles. In this study, the data was a bit more specific, and researchers were able to compare emergency visits on weeks when school was in session, against weeks where students were on break. In this data, researchers found that the rates of emergency visits were 118 percent higher on weeks when school was in session.
Just this year, another study led by Dr. Gregory Plemmons of Vanderbilt University confirmed these previous findings. “When we looked at hospitalizations for suicidal ideation and suicidal encounters over the last decade, essentially 2008 to 2015, we found that the rates doubled among children that were hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or activity,” he told NBC.
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With the extreme stress and pressure that children are put through in school, it should be obvious that it is going to have an adverse effect on their mental health.
Although this data was briefly mentioned in the NBC report where Plemmons was interviewed, the piece seemed to miss the root cause of this problem, and instead blamed social media. While it is true that there are many problems with social media, and that many teenage hardships are exacerbated by these websites, it is also true that school has been driving children to suicide since well before Steve Jobs invented the iPhone.
In 2011, Professors Benjamin Hansen and Matthew Lang published a study that examined rates of suicide, accidents, and homicides among American teenagers dating all the way back to the 1980s. The data spanned between 1980 and 2004 and found that suicide rates were always much higher during the school year. This study also recorded the rates for girls and boys separately, showing that the suicide rate for boys rose 95 percent during the school year, but only 33 percent for girls, which seems to go along with the generalization that girls tend to adjust to school better than boys do.
This blatantly obvious correlation continues to be ignored because it brings into question one of the primary sacred cows of American culture—formal public education. It is a widely held belief that people would not be able to read, write or understand basic math without 12 years of formal government education, but this idea is false, especially in the age of the internet. Most of the information that children receive in public school is obsolete by the time they graduate, and they often learn things that are counter-productive or flat out wrong.
Government schools as an institution were not created to empower the lower and middle class but were in fact designed to keep us in our place. This is not hyperbole or conspiracy theory, but verifiable history that can be traced back to the Prussian model of education, which is the basis of modern schooling. Early promoters of the Prussian model like Edward Thorndike, John Dewey, Horace Mann and the Rockefeller family were blatant in their writings that they wanted to create institutions that would turn the unwashed masses into obedient workers and soldiers.
According to the language of their own programs, they are grooming the youth of the country for a tightly controlled “worker bee” lifestyle. This system was being designed specifically to create factory workers and crush creativity. This all makes sense when you notice that awards are not given out in school for creativity and self-expression, but for perfect attendance and obedience. This is the same reason why the school bells between classes are reminiscent of the early factory bells and whistles that would separate shifts in the sweatshops of the industrial age.
The overall curriculum and structure in public schools have remained the same from the original Prussian model, all the way to present day. Critical thinking is not only suppressed but it is almost completely condemned within school walls. Students who exhibit signs of creativity are often times singled out by teachers as troublemakers because they are typically more resistant to authority and more independent. Sometimes when a student’s creativity cannot be broken they are forced to take mind-numbing psychoactive drugs like Ritalin or Adderall.
Repetitious training exercises are also hidden within the basic structure of a school day. In America, children are forced to “pledge allegiance” to the flag every single day, this exercise is designed to implant nationalistic tendencies into the conscious mind of the student. Demanding students to walk in a straight line or ask before going to the bathroom is a more subtle form of training, however, it also sets them up to “fall in line” when they graduate school and move on with their lives.