What is the Deal with Student Suicide?

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A recent USA Today article[1] indicated that an estimated 4000 high school students commit suicide each year after posting disappointing scores on their final exams. Some die by hanging themselves, others by lighting themselves on fire.

How could a national tragedy of such proportions, more dead than in the attacks of September 11, not be more widely reported by the media?

The students taking their lives are not in the United States. They are in India.

The culture in the Indian educational system is ultra competitive. With over one billion people in India and a scarcity of elite universities, competition for admission is intense, starting at a young age. According to the article, only 7% of India's youth even make it to the 12th grade. It is a classic survival-of-the- fittest scenario.

Of course it is tragic that so many bright, young people, some of the top students in the entire nation, take their lives so needlessly.

The other side of the story, of course, is that this competition produces brilliant scientists, engineers and physicians. Many Indian college graduates come to the United States to attend graduate school or to enter the workforce on H-1B visas; many eventually become U. S. citizens. It is unlikely that one can venture into a hospital in any American city, any large technology company, or any large American university and not find a significant number of people of Indian descent or Indian nationals working and studying.

There is certainly a much lower level of academic competitiveness in American primary and secondary schools and, as such, it is not surprising that there isn't a rash of student suicides in the United States each spring.

It is widely known that American primary and secondary school students do not score well in the subjects of mathematics and science when compared to students in other developed countries and this would appear to be symptomatic of the general trend to eliminate competition in our public schools.

The political correct approach these days is to reward "trying" instead of "winning." No one can be a "loser." The elimination of competition results in the elimination of excellence.

There are academically competitive primary and secondary schools in the United State, of course, but in general, competition for American youth is more likely to occur on the athletic field than in the classroom.

No one wishes for competition to spur suicidal tendencies in America's young people, but without academic competition throughout America's primary and secondary schools, American competitiveness in the global marketplace is certain to decline in years to come.

In the mean time, Indian youth die in the pursuit of a dream that is there for the taking for American students.

-- [1] http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2003-06-15-student-suicides_x.htm

About the Author:

Copyright: (c) 2003 All rights reserved. Jan A. Larson publishes a weekly commentary, "What is the Deal?" at the Pie of Knowledge http://www.pieofknowledge.com. Guest columnists are welcome to submit topical, thought provoking articles from the left or the right.

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