The Stuyvesant Fallacy

Stuyvesant has an apathy problem.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Sophia Li

“My favorite class is probably Health because the teacher assigns like, no work.”

“I joined Key Club because I heard volunteering looks great for college.”

“You got six hours of sleep? Hah, try four!”

Stuyvesant has a problem.

In a school defined by academic rigor and college craze, it’s no wonder that compassion for school, others, and ourselves diminishes over our four years here. When the declining status of your mental health turns into a competition and extracurriculars become more bullet points on your resume, how do you remember to put your present self first?

The prospect of getting into college is a looming force that stays with us throughout all of our achievements and setbacks in high school. It can almost be comforting as when faced with burnout, college becomes an ever-present motivator to keep persevering through tests, essays, and extracurriculars. This objective quickly becomes a casual quip among Stuyvesant students: “I'm only doing it for college.”

At Stuyvesant, there tends to be a game of constant comparison where your worth and value are determined in relation to your peers. A 95 on a test is deemed less significant because someone else got a 100. The work you put into one club you’re passionate about pales in comparison to the 10 leadership positions someone else holds.

As a result, we often choose the activity or class we think will have more value to colleges over those we are truly interested in. Clubs are meant to serve as havens for students with shared interests and to make one look forward to going to school. But at Stuyvesant, club involvement is often solely driven by the desire for a title or for other superficial reasons, leading to growing disregard toward that club’s actual purpose. You probably attended that Red Cross event not from a genuine desire to help others, but because a few extra service hours might help boost your resume—or for extra credit.

When a distant goal becomes our top priority, it's easy for everything else we do to start to feel meaningless. The dissatisfaction that comes from this tunnel vision leaks everywhere. We neglect aspects of our life that we once found important and distance ourselves from our school community. Many students decide that sleep is secondary, as is eating lunch or spending time with family. This same general disillusionment, in which our focus on the future overwhelms our care for the present, is also the root of why some of us don’t vote for caucus elections, fill out feedback forms, or report incidents that should be reported at school.

At some point, when things get really difficult, we have questioned why we are doing all of this. We forget that all this stress we go through is ultimately for ourselves—and that it’s okay to slow down and rest when you need to. Thanks to COVID, taking mental health days have become more widespread. Learn to care about yourself and find more meaning to life than school. Don’t feel guilty about doing things you like because you can’t write that you did it somewhere.

As Editors-in-Chief of The Spectator, it seems ironic to criticize the aspiration of impressing colleges that lies behind applying for leadership positions. We’d be lying if we said that during the grueling application process and hours of editing, knowing that we could add a shiny title to our college resume didn’t hurt. But when you devote so much of yourself to something, college can’t be your sole motivator. We love writing, seeing each issue come out on the stands, and knowing that someone is reading our work, and that motivation is what keeps us from losing our passion for our job. We could never vie to be a leader in robotics or math team, because we simply do not have the same interest for it as we do for Spec. We were fortunate enough to be able to find an activity that we genuinely enjoy doing and find friends within that community. Don’t let college dictate your reasoning for joining clubs, and don’t let it ruin your love for it.

But let’s be real here: that’s easier said than done. We don't have full control over our course load, and stress can still arise from what we love, but it’s a lot easier to pick ourselves up from feelings of inadequacy when doing things we’re actually passionate about. With over 140 clubs, there's bound to be something you love and a community of people who will support you. Use these four years as the period of exploration that they are designed to be.