Silicon Valley is known as the technology hub, the home of successful start-ups, and the center for thriving contemporary businesses. It’s also known that Silicon Valley is a community of privilege and prestige. However, along with the privilege and modern-day technological breakthroughs come many pressures that are in abundance due to the nature and expectations of the area. These pressures often create atmospheres of competition; the high school experience becomes a dull checklist of applying to prestigious colleges and earning perfect grade point averages.
So why is all this stress accumulated in the Bay Area? We live in a Silicon Valley bubble: a bubble that provides us with privileges such as nice homes and distinguished schools, yet also gifts us pressures and anxiety. The amount of stress subjected to students is normalized; however, abnormally high percentages of stressed students and suicide rates in Bay Area schools prove otherwise. Unfortunately, these numbers have increased in the past decade and will continue in the future unless changes are made.
Some pressures are unavoidable. In addition to the normalized stress of living in the Silicon Valley, high expectations from parents, teachers, and other students create stressful environments. In schools, anxiety spreads like the plague – one stressed-out student can easily instill anxiety in another, creating a domino chain of stress and nerves.
The powerful businesses and entrepreneurs of the Bay Area present an entirely new category of possible pressures on high school students. Silicon Valley’s many successful leaders of economic and scientific fields can be both positive and negative role models; while their work is appreciated and needed in the 21st century, the pressures to become as successful as these people cause immense stress in Bay Area students. Pursuing STEM studies becomes a necessity; while many other fields of study exist and are equally valid, the success of STEM in Silicon Valley creates the falsehood that everyone must strive for a job at Apple, Google, NASA, or similar companies.
I often find myself wondering about my studies and college and worrying about what I will do in the future. My true interests and passions are centered on more artistic and creative pursuits. However, I feel pressured to follow in the footsteps of many Silicon Valley students to become a part of the technological world through computer science and engineering. This leads to conflict and stress, as I am still unsure of what occupation I want to pursue in the future.
What schools and colleges must begin to emphasize is that there is no “checklist” that creates the perfect student. Being unsure of the future and exploring many different options is not a meaningless practice and will not put a student at a disadvantage. Students are more than their grade point averages, and their levels of work ethic and intelligence should never be compared to a decimal. Emphasizing grades may result in helping you get to the college of your choice, but will the success be worth the stress that comes along the way?
A final theory of the roots of Silicon Valley stress is an element of the traditional American dream, which summarizes that anyone can come from anywhere and do better in America. The ultimate goal of education and success is to strive to become better.
Silicon Valley is one of the most privileged areas of the world, filled with successful entrepreneurs and technological geniuses. Amidst the constant competition towards innovation, how can one do better in a place that already seems like the best?