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How Far is Too Far: Students and Extra-Curricular Activities
posted by: Ruthie | October 15, 2013, 08:26 PM   

A recent New York Times article, “Overscheduled Children: How Big a Problem?”  examined the delicate balance between incorporating extracurricular activities in students’ lives and overwhelming them.  Michael Thompson, a clinical psychologist and the author of “The Pressured Child” explained the paradigm perfectly. “As a general principle, there is a line between a highly enriched, interesting, growth promoting childhood and an overscheduled childhood. And nobody knows where that line is.”

As the pressure to perform has become an accepted part of the culture of American education, teachers, students, and parents are beginning to wonder where to draw the line. 

Columbia University Psychology Professor Dr. Suniya Luthar stressed that the number of activities isn’t the problem. “It’s good for kids to be scheduled.” She continued, “It’s good for them to have musical activities, sports or other things organized and supervised by an adult.” However, Luthar went on to say the problem arises when parents scrutinize their children’s performance in these activities. “The only place where I say stop is where the child starts to say his or her performance determines his or her self-worth: I am as I perform.”

The popular film Race to Nowhere features several American children, stressed out and pushed to the limit by the pressures of school and extra-curricular activities. Manyl of the families in the film feel the stress of the “all-American allergy to being average — a fear that anything less than exceptional isn’t good enough.”

While extracurricular activities may add too much stress and pressure to the lives of some students, several studies prove that academic success and these activities are linked. An Education Partnerships Inc (EPI) study found extracurricular activities to be one of the best ways to help promote achievement, student engagement, and the attitudes and habits that lead to college aspirations and ultimate success, especially for minorities.

With schools across the country continuing to emphasize testing, taking advanced or dual enrollment classes, and even pushing college acceptance as a graduation requirement – where is the line between pushing your students to excellence and pushing them too far? And how do you achieve balance between extra-curricular activities and academics?

Teachers, has this topic become more prevalent in recent years? Does it depend on the student?

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