Everyone’s high school experience is different, however, most students enter high school with an idea of what it will be like. Whether they have older siblings, read books or watch television shows starring high school students, before one enters high school, they have somehow already gotten a little taste of reality ... at least, they think.
On television and in books, high school is generally not depicted accurately. To say that everything on television is a misconception about high school would be an overstatement, but, it’s not exactly realistic. I routinely carry a 20-pound backpack full of textbooks, folders, notebooks and my lunch, while high schoolers on Glee carry a cellphone and maybe one binder as a prop. During lunchtime, students on television walk into the cafeteria and are served a heap of gross-looking mush. In reality, there are often many appetizing food options. The quality of the cafeteria food isn’t the biggest difference though. I have noticed that the biggest contrast between high school on television and high school in real life is time. I’m sure many students can agree they don’t get a whole lot of free time during high school. So tell me, how do these students on television all this free time on their hands? If television shows were realistic, they’d be working on projects and studying for tests. When was the last time the characters from Pretty Little Liars did their homework? Let’s get real: High schoolers on television are probably failing school. Know that I am not trying to discourage those who dream of going to East High (like I did after watching High School Musical for the first time), but we have to realize that high school isn’t what the entertainment industry makes it out to be, which can be good and bad. For instance, despite what television and movies tell us, there aren’t bullies who will shove you up against a locker and demand your lunch money. These days, most bullying is cyber-bullying, which may be worse. A good thing about the difference between the two is that in real life, teachers often leave helpful comments on your work instead of just handing it back with a big letter stamped on it.
What I find most incredible is that, while we complain about school and wish that it were more like it is on television, there are teenagers in other parts of the world who would do anything for an education. A perfect example of this is the very inspirational and courageous Malala Yousafzai. After being shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting education for girls in her province in Pakistan, she was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her determination and bravery in her efforts against the will of Taliban rebels. She has faced death threats since seventh grade, when her anonymous blog postings infuriated local Taliban rulers who started closing all girls’ schools in the region in 2009.
Malala’s high school age struggles dwarf any tale that one could watch on 21 Jump Street, Friday Night Lights or Gossip Girl. Her reality is one that is both inspiring and seems unbelievable: How can something as basic as an education be denied to anyone? Who would deny it? And who would, then, risk their life to be able to take a math test?
We are certainly blessed with all the opportunities afforded to us, and that includes being grateful for the education our high school years provide. Myths may glamorize it and our struggles are probably overstated, but the reality is we are lucky to have it.
Mari Andreatta is a junior at Notre Dame High School in Belmont. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at email@example.com.