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March 5th, 2011 by k Leave a reply »

I’m not really in a writing mood; I’m only doing this because I can’t think of anything else to do. So excuse the poor writing.

Recently I’ve noticed a common problem in Arcadia. Well, I guess I had noticed it before, because I deal with it frequently, but I thought it was just me. However, through random discussions as well as reading stuff from people on facebook and stuff, it seems that many people in Arcadia suffer from it. Perhaps I am pessmisticly exxagerating, but I think it is possible that this is a major problem in this school.

As we all know, AHS is considered a really high-achieving school. Copy and paste from wikipedia:

  • Newsweek ranks Arcadia High School 521 on its 2008 list of the United States’ 1300 best public high schools
  • 250 students compete on 8 state and national award-winning academic teams
  • The 1993 and 2010 national champions, the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Team
  • A national-placing Speech and Debate Team
  • A national-placing Quiz Bowl Team
  • A national-placing Ocean Sciences Bowl Team
  • A national-placing Science Bowl Team (4th place in 2010).
  • A state-placing Science Olympiad Team
  • Nationally recognized 386-member Apache Marching Band and Colorguard
  • 350-student Symphony Orchestra program
  • About 90 students involved in 3 groups of Percussion.
  • The Arcadia World Percussion, nationally recognized as a six-time finalist in Winter Guard International
  • A national-placing Colorguard team
  • Dance and theater production groups
  • 250-student Choral Department Program
  • Nationally acclaimed show choirs: Chanteurs and New Spirit
  • Arcadian Yearbook and Apache Pow Wow Newspaper Staff of over 115 students
  • Video Production and Apache News Team
  • One-fourth of the 4,000 students participate in the athletics teams and program
  • 48-member Pep Squad
  • #1 ranked Cross Country team in the nation.
  • 2010 Boys Cross Country national champions.

    But we don’t need wikipedia to tell us this, we can see it everyday. It seems that anywhere you go in the school, you can hear of some person or some group accomplishing some amazing feat of academics or extracurricular activity, whether it’s doing really well on some national physics test, or winning some athletic award, or getting a 4.0 GPA while taking 23 APs.  Maybe there’s a sense of school pride at this, or maybe you genuinely feel happy for them. I’m sure we’ve been somewhat dulled to amazement from all these accomplishments, just because they are so common around here, but I’m sure we still do feel at least some sense of awe it. But at the same time, somebody else doing something remarkable means that we are not the ones doing it.

    In Arcadia, as you look at all the great accomplishments around you, it seems very easy to feel inferior. It seems that everyone is doing many things, doing them very well, and still getting twice the amount of sleep as you. This is quote from a AHS student, on his tumblr (which is apparently some blog thingy):

    “I always blamed a lack of time as my inability to participate in sports, even for leisure, and yet I have seen quite a few people taking more AP’s than me, engaged in Band or Orchestra activities, dedicated to numerous extracurricular activities, have time for sports and actually enjoying themselves, and still sleep before midnight.  I don’t know, I can’t even say I have the right to envy that…but that really strikes a blow across myself.  What is wrong with me, with how I manage my life, that I would drive myself into such a mess and failure that I am right now?”

    This is not just an isolated rant from a random depressed guy, though, not only because the person who wrote this seems quite sane to me, but also because I often feel very much the same, and I can’t guarantee it, but I think that others at the school feel the same way. With all the talk that goes on about the achievment of others, it just seems nearly impossible to not feel envious of others. With the culture of this school, values are focused on achievement, whether academically or otherwise, and with so much of it going around, it seems natural to wonder why you aren’t doing a larger part of  it.

    And of course, Asian parenting does not help whatsoever. I think we all know of our parents making comparisons to other students at the school. They are able to somehow pick up information about the accomplishments of your peers, whether it’s through something you told them, or through their discussions with other parents. They then list off these things others do, and point out that you have done none of this. If you weren’t already brewing in misery of inferiority before, it is very difficult to not do so after this Asian parenting tactic.

    So basically, the whole Arcadia atmosphere contributes to this feeling, both through our standards and the infamous Asian parenting that we so often discuss on here. And what is the effect of this feeling? I’m going to go back to the previously referenced post, because somehow his writing is able to describe my feelings better than anything I can write right now.

    “I won’t even get into my inferiority lapse over higher education…that’s probably the worst part.  I will just leave it at that all the competition and lack of proper motivation on my own part has established a deteriorating cycle.  I don’t know…it seems that I have lost my faith and dedication in striving for the best after regarding myself as increasingly inferior among the masses of students with far more brilliant minds and a whole lot more commitment and outlook.  And what do I do?  I bawl over increasing standards, procrastinate, never learn from my own lessons, exchange sleep time for useless tasks completely irrelevant to my goals, and lose more confidence at the outcome of failure.  And the cycle repeats itself.  “

    Some people are motivated by seeing the success of others. Michael Jordan is often used as an example. Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team his freshman year, but rather than give up, he became motivated by seeing the others on the team and not him, and worked hard until he not only made the team, but  became the greatest basketball player ever. But there’s a reason why he is Michael Jordan, and others aren’t.

    Maybe people like that are just naturally more competitive, or strong-willed. Maybe they just do naturally have more talent. But whatever the reason, the fact is that the average high school student in Arcadia, to the dismay of their Asian parents, is not going to look around, see all the success around them, and become extremely motivated to achieve something even greater than that. Instead, the natural response is to feel incompetent, and want to give up. Yes, it’s not the “right” thing to do, and I’m sure there are plenty of motivational talks out there to try and stop people from doing so, but many times for us, I guess there just doesn’t seem to be any other option.

    Interestingly, when I discussed this post with the author of it, he could not understand why I felt the same way as him, citing my SAT score. At the same time, I felt that he should not feel this way, in fact, he is someone I often feel jealous of, as he has a clear passion in something, and also happens to be very good at it. He also happens to be very successful romantically, something that I, of course, have no experience with.

    I’m not totally sure what this says. I guess maybe it shows that nobody here is really immune from this feeling of inferiority, no matter how accomplished someone may look to others. Whether it’s our honest observations, or a distortion of reality, we see the world around us, and do not like it. The competitive enviroment that we’ve grown up in has been largely responsible for our successes (even if we feel others have many more, we all have some), but at the same time, this enviroment is a key cause of our depression. This post is of course, nothing scientific, and mostly just scattered rambling, but I do feel that this is one of the biggest problems among our student body. I don’t know what exactly the effects of it are, in the present or the future. Maybe it’s just typical teenage angst, or maybe it is indeed something that plagues Arcadia High School.

    Either way, this feeling of inferiority doesn’t seem healthy for anybody. Maybe in the short term, or in the past, this would work in motivating students, to try and match or surpass the accomplishments of their peers. Maybe this is why Asian parents so often decided to compare their kids to others, because it seemed to bring results. But by this point, it seems to just cause much emotional distress. It results in a jaded view of the world, where there doesn’t seem to be much opportunity for success, and where one can never live up to the standards set by others.  

    From an IM convo with somebody else, I’m not sure if he wants me to divulge his identity…

     ” idk its like i also feel like im not gonna achieve anything in life
        and i have no purpose

        it gets depressing though
        maybe thats why i’m failing
        cuz i’ve lost my motivation”

    Not all the blame belongs to the Asian parents. It seems like that we have always tried to compete with each other, from elementary school, through middle school, and now. Maybe many of us had no real goal other than the vague one of  “doing well”, and surpassing everybody else along the way, rather than having any true motivation for something. Anyway, enough speculating. Whatever the reason, our motivation and hope seems to be being drained. I don’t know what will become of this. Perhaps it is just a phase, and we’ll be fine. Or maybe not.

    To again quote the blog post rather than writing something myself:

    “Maybe it’s just a lapse…maybe these feelings just come and go…maybe this will soon pass and I can continue on with my life…but I am really just exhausted of hope and confidence as of now.”

    I guess we’ll just have to see what becomes of this. Maybe I shouldn’t generalize the whole student body. I don’t know exactly how many people share these feelings of inferiority and depression, and how many are fine with everything.

    Well, anway, one of the frequent things I’ve heard about the Arcadian atmosphere, one that is said by adults, perhaps former Arcadia High students themselves, is that this enviroment, if nothing else will at least prepare you for college. After dealing with all the competitivness early on, it is much easier to deal with an enviroment outside of this one.

    I agree. This atmosphere will prepare you for college. Unfortunately, it is likely this is going to be college at UC Riverside, because your college application just doesn’t compare with everyone else’s.

    Yeah, I almost went for the optmistic ending, but that just wasn’t going to happen. And again, yeah, this is probably the most poorly written post I’ve done in a while.


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    1. Benji says:

      Yeah, I almost went for the optmistic ending, but that just wasn’t going to happen. And again, yeah, this is probably the most poorly written post I’ve done in a while.

      I’ll start off by saying that no, this is one of the best posts you’ve written in a while. (Oh, but get FireFox and use the spellcheck. No biggie, especially since this was written very quickly.)

      I’m intrigued by many parts of this post. It gives an interesting viewpoint that I don’t see as often as other students, or at least not very often this year. This year, not to sound superior or anything, but I don’t get those feelings of inferiority discussed in this post.

      And it’s not like that’s because I get 100%s on every test and place in national physics contests without studying, because that’s not true. I fail a lot (and learn from these failures), but it doesn’t make me feel inferior to others who have succeeded. Instead, I look up to them: the ones who are truly brilliant and possessed the willpower and intelligence to strive through numerous difficulties and succeed in life. I respect Vincent Li for making the national International Physics Olympiad camp. I respect Bryan for making USAMO and going to Stanford. Et cetera.

      This doesn’t mean that the Asian parents are right. The two examples I cited above are extremely, extremely rare specimen. Most of the children who seem “successful”, at least from my point of view, have gotten there not through hard work, diligence, and true intelligence, but through (excuse my French) BS. Instead of a love of learning that compels them, they strive to do the minimum amount of possible work to achieve the maximum “grade”. I suppose that this is really a problem with the system. I must not be making very much sense.

      Anyways, the environment is not good for you, because you are actually surrounded by a multitude of BS-ers, not a rainbow of geniuses and thinkers. Their bad habits will rub off on you, and will become your own bad habits.

      So instead of making these children more competent members of society, high school is making us less competent. I won’t go as far as to say “liars and cheaters”, but that’s what I get from the academic aspect of high school.

      What especially pisses me off: those prep classes.

      I’m not sure what I was arguing in this comment. Maybe I should go back to sleep.

    2. k says:

      Yeah, I usually check my spelling before I post, but I was too tired to do so last night, and I didn’t feel like it. Want to proofread for me? lol.

      Well yeah, I know that not everyone feels this way, but it does seem like it’s more than just me, as I originally thought. And yeah, some of those overachieving people I do respect, but at the same time I do wish I could do what they’re doing.

      Yeah, I know that many of the “successful” people are just BSing, but still, it doesn’t make me feel better that they are still going to go to a better college than me. Maybe they aren’t particularly good in anything, except that they are exceedingly competent in beating the system, which is enough. Oh, that reminds me, let’s write that script, lol.

      And yeah, it’s really difficult to find anyone that really loves to learn in this sytem. Like that question that people ask, would you rather get a bad grade and learn something or get a good grade and not learn anything. Everyone knows the answer “should” be the first one, but idk how many AHS students would honestly choose that/

      Well, maybe it is making us become more competent, because one of the most valuable skills in society is to bs and manipulate the system. /pessimism

      idk, where the prep classes came in to this, but ok.

    3. Benji says:

      Well, maybe it is making us become more competent, because one of the most valuable skills in society is to bs and manipulate the system. /pessimism

      … YES. You’re so right, hahaha. By evaporating our morals and teaching us how to cheat the system. Such a good point there, k. Brilliant ><

      Yeah, I know that many of the “successful” people are just BSing, but still, it doesn’t make me feel better that they are still going to go to a better college than me. Maybe they aren’t particularly good in anything, except that they are exceedingly competent in beating the system, which is enough. Oh, that reminds me, let’s write that script, lol.

      Yeah, it makes me feel extremely bad that many of these BSers are going to go to a better college than I probably will. I also feel bad for the colleges, for choosing people who won’t contribute to their ecosystem or society in general.

      Also, since more people seem to be reading this blog, and some of them might include themselves in that category: I’m not insulting you, and it’s pretty natural to embark on this route, simply because it’s not possible to survive without it (even if you are brilliant — the BSers get better grades than the geniuses, it’s a proven fact). You are just one minor apple in the entire spoiled barrel, and it’s not your fault.

      Blame the system.

      idk, where the prep classes came in to this, but ok.

      Blame the system.

    4. k says:

      BSers read this blog? lol, well, hi to any BSers reading this, if there are any.
      Yeah, I guess I can’t totally blame them, because as you were saying, our morals have been dissolved, and I can’t say I haven’t done a good deal of bsing in high school, but still, I don’t like it that both me and people who are honestly better than me will not be able to out-compete those who are willing to totally bs. I guess I’m not really insulting them either, because a lot of it is the system, but I’m not exactly sympathetic to the cause.

      But of course, you have to think about what these bsers are going to do once they get out of high school and their Ivy League colleges. If they become corrupt politicians or Enron/Goldmach Sachs type people, then they deserve whatever insults they get. Or maybe they’ll work at collegeboard to furthur benefit from the system that gave them their success.

    5. Benji says:

      My feelings towards BS is exactly the same, except I’m willing to be more sympathetic perhaps.

      Personally (no offense to any that may be reading this), I think that these BSers who get into good colleges will be the very same ones who end up dropping out of college. Although the university’s system may not be perfect (their admissions offices certainly aren’t, but that’s not really their fault because they do their best to sift through College Board junk and meaningless grades and club presidencies and crap), it will be a lot better than high school. Maybe that’s why I’m optimistic.

      But yeah, some of them will totally go on to become corrupt politicians etc ^^

    6. k says:

      lol, well, we’ll just have to see how everything turns out. Our high school reunions will be very interesting. Wait, AHS does reunions, right? Well, I guess something will probably be arranged via facebook or something even if they don’t.

      And of course, it’s not just AHS BSers taking ours spots, there are those who are obscenely wealthy or have other advantages. Which is what our supposed movie is for, I guess, lol.

    7. Benji says:

      lol once I get into college it won’t be possible to boycott facebook anymore, so I guess.

      also, I have really wanted to write a post about the value of knowledge, not as a venue to fame or fortune or grades or (god forbid) college admissions, but as a form of beauty.

      it’s a topic I’ve been itching to explore, but i don’t know if my meager non-AP english skills can successfully convey my message.

    8. Benji says:

      actually maybe when I get into college, people will finally realize facebook is stupid and stop using it. haha.

    9. k says:

      lol, even if people stop using facebook, there will be something else. Yeah, you’ll probably end up starting using that stuff. I never thought I would, but yeah, lol. You have the same opinino of social networking of my dad, but he’s 40-something years older, so you can’t avoid it as easily.
      Hm, the value of knowledge. I’m sure it’s something we’ve all valued at one point, but not anymore, lol.

    10. Benji says:

      lol what does your dad think of you having a facebook?

    11. k says:

      He doesn’t know, lol.

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