In Due Time

Hannah Lee

Senior Juliane Tsai spent countless hours of her senior year behind the wheel of her car, learning to drive. Tsai also holds two jobs — tutoring and babysitting children throughout the week. She thinks there is an inexplicable freedom in being able to transport herself and earn her own money. She values that freedom more than academics.

“I think it’s just having that extra money that you can spend on anything,” Tsai said. “Parents will support you with food and other necessities. The money [that you earn] is for the extra things, so you can manage your own money.”

Unlike Tsai, senior Amita Mahajan opted to not get her driver’s license in order to focus on schoolwork. Mahajan decided that her packed schedule could not accommodate a job. To Mahajan, having to rely on her parents for rides and money is acceptable, as it means that she is able to focus on her academic life. Similarly, in a survey of 284 students, 83% said that they do not have a job, with 34% attributing it to a shortage of time and 16% saying that they want to focus on academics and extracurriculars.

“I could have gotten my permit during second semester of sophomore year, but at the time I didn’t feel mature enough to actually get behind the wheel and start driving,” Mahajan said. “I would get my driver’s license, but I don’t have that time.”

Right now, at Monta Vista, we’re leaning too heavily on the [academic] side. There needs to be a balance.

On the other hand, Tsai believes that MVHS students are able to take on these responsibilities earlier in life due to their ability to multi-task.

“I think that we do a lot as students. A lot of us are really good at juggling things,” Tsai said. “We can do all these things all at once. It’s the culture at MVHS to use up all your time doing something productive.”

History teacher Margaret Platt reminisces about her own teenage years, recalling that she got a license and a job as soon as she could. She explains that because she grew up in a rural area, her social life depended on her ability to drive. Platt believes that in rural areas, kids have to become independent earlier in life as they don’t have access to the same resources as kids in more urbanized areas such as the Bay Area, where she notices that self-sufficiency isn’t expected until much later in life.

“[Rural kids’] independence depends on their ability to connect and hang out with their friends,” Platt said. “You’ll see them go get their licenses immediately. At Monta Vista, you don’t need that.”

Platt notices that in her generation, there was an eagerness to take the first step towards independence. Platt recognizes that academic standards have changed over time. However, she does not believe that the enthusiasm for independence is present in MVHS students.

“It used to be kids would always want to get a job,” Platt said. “Even high-achieving kids that wanted to go off to college [wanted jobs]. The pressure was not like it is today, to compete to get into college. You see kids today opting to not get a job so they can focus on their studies.”

Science teacher Kyle Jones explains that while he was growing up, getting a job and a license was almost a given in his community. Jones got his learner’s permit as soon as possible and held a job at Target during his high school years. As a teenager, the idea of independence highly appealed to Jones.

“To me the idea of self-sufficiency and independence was more of a priority than my academics,” Jones said. “I didn’t want to have to [ask my parents], ‘Can I have 20 dollars? Can you drive me here?’ I wanted to do things when I wanted.”

However, Jones explains that students’ tendency to focus on school is not necessarily negative, as the hard work that students invest in their academics now will allow them to potentially experience greater benefits in the future. He believes this type of delayed gratification is what distinguishes people who are successful from those who are not.

Jones believes that while delaying gratification or independence can provide one with self-sufficiency in the future, it may have negative consequences. He explains that kids who choose not to work or drive are neglecting an important part of growing up, which may lead to a rough transition into adulthood.

hannah swara
Graphic by Elizabeth Han

“There are different kinds of experiences you can gain from working that you will not gain by not working,” Jones said. “Working with people in a professional environment is very different from working with people in an academic, learning environment.”

Mahajan agrees, believing that her decision to not work or drive will affect her in the future, when she will be forced to shoulder the responsibilities of adulthood all at once.

“When we go to college, we should have more basic life skills. A lot of those life skills come from responsibilities like driving and working,” Mahajan said. “Right now, at Monta Vista, we lean too heavily on the [academic] side. There needs to be a balance.”