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The Silicon Bubble: Student Stress and Competition in the Bay Area



In Silicon Valley, driving past the headquarters of companies like Apple and Google is almost as common as driving past a McDonald’s franchise. Every day, students are subjected to the direct effects of inventions developed only 15 minutes away
from school.

Software engineer Linus Torvalds once said, “Silicon Valley is completely different: people here really live on the edge.” The atmosphere where we live is more competitive and fast-paced due to the vast amount of influential people and companies. The pressure for students to succeed is elevated as a result.

“With the entire atmosphere of the
Silicon Valley startups, we’re never happy with where we are at and we feel like we have to keep doing better. That general environment is heavily influencing us as teenagers,” junior Helena Merk said.

While this push positively motivates students to strive to be the best, it can sometimes undermine how accomplished Pinewood students really are. One study done by the Palo Alto superintendent Glenn
Mcgee interviewed 300 Bay Area students, and discovered that more than half would be “really embarrassed” if they received a B, which typically means “above average.”

“In other parts of the country, there might not be the sense of competition that we feel here. Here, everybody is pushing to be the overachiever, which makes no one the overachiever. Kids from the Silicon Valley are known to be very grade oriented, so it’s not as much of a novelty when one of us does well and gets straight A’s as when someone in a small town in the midwest does well,”
junior Zarin Mohsenin said.

Technology will inevitably be weaved into almost every career, so it is important that students are taught how to work alongside it. Thus, a new field of study has recently been introduced in the school curriculum: programming. The new mandatory computer science class and high school electives expose students to writing codes in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, digital presence, computer
systems and organization, and more.

“Everything being created seems to have a technology component, which will require people to know how to create, modify, or fix it, so it is very important to expose and educate the population in the areas of Engineering and Computer Science,” computer science department chair Phil Ribaudo said.

New forms of technology such as the iPad have transformed the way lessons are taught, research is conducted, school work is completed and submitted, notes are taken, and more. Only ten years ago at Pinewood, there was no internet filter, teachers used a combination of Macs and PC’s, printers were slow, and basic routers allowed for only minor Internet traffic. Now, everyone is connected in an almost seamless system of iPads with faster internet, Barracuda, and advanced computer systems.           

“The iPad has only been around since 2010 and yet in such a short time, it has transformed the way we teach and students learn because it knocks down the walls of the traditional classroom and opens up the world,” Ribaudo said.

However, the ease technology provides has its downsides. Ribaudo is concerned that “technology may be replacing necessary organizational skills that need to be developed by younger students.” It will be increasingly more important for teachers to reinforce
basic skills that technology should not replace. Also, many jobs are being replaced by artificial intelligence. These downsides should not, however, undermine the
vast benefits.

“I believe one of the biggest challenges students need to face and conquer is adapting to change… In general, Pinewood has moved to empower students to accept and embrace change, which will be a key skill and key factor for success in the 21st century world,” Ribaudo said.