Had my kids not been students at the school profiled in Alexandra Robbins‘ exposé of success-driven teenagers, The Overachievers, I would probably never have heard about the book, much less read it. However, since they go to that same high school that AP Frank and the rest of the overachieving students in the book attended, I thought it would be an interesting read.
It was more than interesting, it was an eye-opener and a sigh-producer. I threw it across the room more than once. I vowed to quit reading it more than once. It took me nearly a full year to read and I still have the last few pages to go.
My daughter is now a senior at the school. Clare is not an overachiever in the true sense of the word, but she does push herself academically, which can be hell for her and her parents. I won’t elaborate because she occasionally reads this. Hi Clare.
My son, also not an overachiever, is a sophomore. He’s begun to take school more seriously this year. Hi Andrew! (actually he never reads this, so I could tell you lots of stories about him…
So, I’d be reading The Overachievers and forget it was so close to home (on a couple of levels) until the author mentioned something I’d seen that day, like the façade of the building or the carpool line or a storefront in Bethesda. Then I’d throw the book across the room.
Sure, sometimes I wish my kids were at the top of their class and candidates for valedictorian, but they’re not. Neither was I. Neither was their dad. We’re not [medical] doctors or lawyers. We didn’t go to ivy league schools.
It’s supposed to be made into a movie. I don’t know how that’s going to work unless it is a documentary. But I think it is a drama. Or a comedy. Or better yet, a tragedy.
Robbins is on our side — she wants schools to stop pressuring kids to overachieve. The last chapter provides many ways to help kids be successful and get into colleges without the terrible stressful hell it has become, but unless all parties (colleges, kids, parents and high schools) agree to follow what Robbins says, it’s not going to happen.
AP Frank wrote a letter [pdf] to the editor of the school newspaper last month. It’s a little rambling, but I think he gives the students some good advice — Be yourself and enjoy your life. Thanks Frank, that’s the best thing I’ve heard all year.