Suicides of Top Students and The Worship of Academic Perfectionism

We previously reported the case of a straight-A student in Singapore who killed herself over two B-grades, despite scoring scored distinctions for her other subjects.

Here’s another story (albeit in the United States) that appeared recently in The New York Times.

Now, if you are contemplating suicide due to academic failure, may we please ask you to watch this video?

We feel that too many students (and their parents) are selling themselves short in the quest for academic perfectionism.

Education — which was meant to be a blessing — is turning out to be a heavy yoke, because it has been substituted into a form of idol worship.

As Christians, we are taught that it is God who supplies all of our needs (Philippians 4:19) and who gives us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). However, society instills into us a false belief that the only guarantee to a bright future is academic perfectionism (and thus, the need to worship at its altar).

The two stories (in the hyperlinks provided above) illustrate that when parents and their children buy into this false belief, it can lead to tragic consequences.

You see, academic perfectionism leaves no room for error, no room for a anything but an A-grade, or for others being better than you.

The spirit of academic perfectionism flogs you into thinking that in order to survive in the world, you need to be ‘Number 1’ in every subject, everytime.

And when you are not the ‘Number 1’, the spirit of academic perfectionism ridicules you and tells you that your life is not worth living.

On the other hand, the Spirit of Christ tells us that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28), meaning that even if you fail to achieve academically what you had set out to achieve, God still has a wonderful plan and destiny for you.

God’s plan and destiny for each of us stands firm even when other people are better than us. Indeed, the Spirit of Christ teaches us to be humble, to think of others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

Now, think about it again — isn’t it liberating to be able to acknowledge others as being better than ourselves, yet at the same time, rest in full assurance that God has a wonderful plan and destiny for each of us?

And when we do that, we find ourselves less stressed up, less desirous of making comparisons with others, and more able to become what God had intended us to be.

That’s why the Spirit of Christ tells us: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest“. (Matthew 11:28).

SINGAPORE NEWS: Some Secondary School Students Abusing Mental Stimulant Drugs to Do Well in Examinations

According to The New Paper, some secondary school students are abusing mental stimulant drugs to prepare for examinations, albeit claiming that they use them only as ‘last resort’.

Teen abuse drugs to ace exams_New Paper article

The New Paper spoke to Jason, a 14-year-old Secondary 3 student from a top school, who has been taking pills containing methylphenidate (a mental stimulant meant to treat people with attention deficit hyperactive disorder [ADHD], although he does not suffer from the disorder himself.

Jason claimed that with all his time spent in class, tuition and on co-curricular activities, he has had little time left to prepare for his upcoming mid-year examination, and that taking these pills makes it “extremely easy” to get work done.

Said Jason: “I start to feel jittery when I take it but suddenly, I can easily set my mind on any task and get it done.

For example, the drug makes me want to redo the same questions again and again, which is great for mathematics. I don’t get distracted by the computer or T.V. too.

Jason belongs to a group of students who have been taking methylphenidate as a way to cope with their schoolwork. They found out about it from a website last year and one of the members in his group buys it from an online black market.

The students’ parents do not know that they are using methylphenidate illictly to help them with their studies, but Jason insists that it is not wrong for them to do so.

He claims they take the pill only during exam periods and as a last resort.

We are not dependent on it,” said Jason, adding that he and his associates do not take the drug for recreation.

He does not consider his actions as drug misuse and would argue that it is “no different from an ultra strong coffee“.

Neither is it “cheating“, says Jason, as he and his associates, like any other student, have to put in the effort to remember what they have studied.

In Singapore, methylphenidate is classified as a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act and can be legally obtained from a pharmacist through a doctor’s written prescription following photo identification.

Ms Irene Quay, honorary secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore, said that the use of methylphenidate by students for non-medical reasons can result “in a euphoric effect and subsequent craving for repeated use, leading to addiction“.

Worldwide, there have been reports of death following methylphenidate abuse. In a scientific paper that appeared in the Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the authors warned: “The use of methylphenidate by anyone other than the patient to whom it was prescribed needs to be addressed… The extreme consequences of abuse and addiction, resulting in legal repercussions, psychiatric symptoms and disorders, as well as death and homicide, need to be discussed seriously.

The bible warns: “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death“. (Proverbs 14:12, NET bible translation). It is indeed worrying that teenagers like Jason seem to take the missuse of stimulant drugs too lightly, risking their health, as well as their lives.