A fancy California high school is no longer going to publish a map showing the post-graduation plans of its students because editors of the school newspaper decided that it was too “toxic.”
Palo Alto High School — which, as Campus Reform notes, James Franco and Jeremy Lin both attended — will not feature the map in its newspaper (called the Campanile) because the five student editors decided that it “contributes to the toxic, comparison-driven culture,” according to the Washington Post.
“The Post-Paly Plans Map has historically been one of The Campanile’s most highly anticipated pieces,” stated a post in the student newspaper. “Though its intended purpose was to celebrate the post-graduation plans of every senior, the reality is the map contributes to the toxic, comparison-driven culture at Paly.”
“Our community fosters a college-centric mindset which erodes one’s sense of value and can lead to students with less traditional plans feeling judged, embarrassed or underrepresented,” the post continued. “This worldview sets the bar for achievement extremely high and punishes anyone who falls short.”
Instead of the map, the post announced, the editors “decided to publish a series of quotes portraying Paly community members’ perspectives on the culture at our school and alternative post-graduation paths.”
Sorry, but I have to admit that this made me roll my eyes so hard that I almost fell out of my chair. Although I’m all for “alternative post-graduation paths” — after all, I don’t believe a four-year degree is always the best option for every young person, especially if he or she has to take out massive amounts of loans to get one — these students’ attempts at trying to protect students’ feelings is actually quite stupid.
The truth is, the editors’ attempt to shield students from tough feelings may actually wind up shielding them from something else: reality. See, whether it’s on a map in the school newspaper or not, it’s still true that Jenny is planning to go to Harvard while Johnny is planning to sit around his mom’s basement and smoke weed. (Although, the way Ivy League education seems to be going these days, some could argue that Johnny might learn more than Jenny, especially if he’s more of a “nature-documentary-type” stoner.) Refusing to publish Jenny’s vs. Johnny’s plans might make Johnny feel better for a little while, but is that really even helping him? After all, it’s still true that he has a sad life — and he’s not going to be able to hide from that forever. Maybe, just maybe, actually feeling some of the shame when he sees that map in the school newspaper could actually motivate him to want to do bigger and better things instead of ripping bigger and better bongs.
Yes, feeling negative feelings is unpleasant, but the truth is, there are reasons why we as humans have evolved to feel them . . . and one of those reasons is that they can inspire us to do better. Think about it: Just like the physical illness that you experience from eating too much candy can compel you to avoid eating so much unhealthy food in the future, the emotional discomfort you experience from underachieving can compel you to make healthier choices in that area of your life, too. Bad feelings aren’t fun, but they can serve a purpose — and it’s better for these kids (read: mostly young adults) to start learning this sooner rather than later.