Thursday, April 07, 2011

Why ‘Race to Nowhere’ documentary is wrong

Kudos to Jay Mathews for exposing the nonsense in Race to Nowhere, which tries to make a problem that applies to 1% of schoolchildren into a national problem, when the real problem is precisely the opposite:

Vicki Abeles' film "Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America's Achievement Culture" may be the most popular documentary in America without a theater distribution deal. Parents and students are flocking to schools and community centers where there have been more than 1,700 screenings in 47 states and 20 countries.

It is a well-intended project that raises a vital issue, the harmful academic pressure on students in some college-conscious homes. Then the film goes haywire by suggesting too much homework is a national problem when the truth is that high school students on average are doing too little.

Abeles has spunk. She agreed to have an e-mail discussion with me (the whole thing will be on my blog Friday) and did not waver when I challenged her notion that teenagers everywhere, not just the top 10 percent, were drowning in textbooks and term papers.

I cited time diaries collected by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research showing that 15- to 17-year-olds in 2002 and 2003 devoted about 3 ½ hours a day to TV and other leisure while their average time spent studying was 42 minutes. I pointed out that the annual UCLA Higher Education Research Institute survey of college freshmen shows about two-thirds did an hour or less of homework a night in high school.


Posted at 08:00 PM ET, 04/03/2011

Why 'Race to Nowhere' documentary is wrong

By Jay Mathews

 Subscribe in a reader