Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Parents Embrace Documentary on Pressures of School

I think Race to Nowhere is a very relevant movie for 1-2% of U.S. schoolkids – but it's completely wrong for the rest.  The big problem in this country is NOT overstressed, overworked, overachieving kids – it's completely the opposite: we're demanding FAR too little, have dumbed things down, and the average 8-18 year old in the country is spending 4 ½ hours per DAY watching TV, 2 ½ listening to music, 1 ½ playing on a computer, 1:13 playing video games, and a mere 38 minutes reading any printed material (like a book)!  (See page 19 of my school reform presentation, posted at http://www.arightdenied.org/presentation-slides):

With no advertising and little news media attention, "Race to Nowhere" has become a must-see movie in communities where the kindergarten-to-Harvard steeplechase is most competitive.

More than 1,100 attended a screening last week at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill. About 500 saw it at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan in November. It has been shown to a roomful of fathers at Pixar during lunch hour and twice to employees at the Silicon Valley headquarters of Google.

All 325 seats in the auditorium of New Canaan Country School in Connecticut were filled during a screening for parents last Thursday night. Francie Irvine, the assistant head of school, said, "Our parents' association president called me and said, 'My sister just saw this in California and we have to, have to, have to have it here.' "

The film portrays the pressures when schools pile on hours of homework and coaches turn sports into year-round obligations. Left somewhat unexamined is the role of parents whose high expectations contribute the most pressure of all.

"Everyone expects us to be superheroes," one high school senior in the film says.

Another tells of borrowing her friends' prescription for Adderall to juggle her many commitments. "It's hard to be the vice president of your class, play on the soccer team and do homework," she says.

The movie introduces boys who drop out of high school from the pressure, girls who suffer stress-induced insomnia and worse, and students for whom "cheating has become another course," as one puts it.

"When success is defined by high grades, test scores, trophies,"' a child psychologist says in the film, "we know that we end up with unprepared, disengaged, exhausted and ultimately unhealthy kids."


Parents Embrace Documentary on Pressures of School

Published: December 8, 2010


It isn't often that a third of a movie audience sticks around to discuss its message, but that is the effect of "Race to Nowhere," a look at the downside of childhoods spent on résumé-building.

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