Readers of Toronto’s Globe and Mail—citizens most easily embarrassed and most thoroughly informed about all that could go wrong—were treated to a scary headline yesterday and an editorial today about a massive Toronto school study on teenage stress. While most survey participants stoutly insisted that they felt good about themselves and were "reasonably happy," the survey discovered that 73% of the Toronto’s high school students “worried about their future.”
This high level of distress apparently came as a worrying surprise. A senior manager at the school board confessed he’d assumed that the students had a “happy-go-lucky existence.” The Globe’s editorial board urged parents and officials not to overreact.
It’s unseemly on Valentine’s Day to be unmoved by widespread anxiety or think of telling anyone today to "suck it up." Nevertheless, there is much that is good and reassuring about this stressful state of affairs.
The tough New York comedian Lily Tomlin put it perfectly:
“Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it.”
Toronto wants to be a tough, world-class city, like New York, really. Tomlin would likely be impressed by the study’s findings. She’d likely be flattering, if she heard about it.
Despite illusions about living in a more humane and gentle society and in a less hated country than that behemoth to the south, it’s striking to see how intensely young people in Toronto actually think about the future and their yet-uncertain place within it. Clearly, modern education’s concern for student morale has interfered with their worries.
History hasn’t skipped Toronto and moved west. Young Torontonians are worried because they’re still ambitious. They’re stressed because they could fail. And they could fail because they’re still free and tempted to do better.