Race to Nowhere exposes the dark side of America’s achievement culture and its harmful effects on our children. I had an opportunity to attend a screening of this film this week. Overall it was a sad tale of the stress and overwhelming pressure today’s youth is under. It exposes a school system in which neither educators nor students are truly thriving but just getting by, or checking out.
Despite the stress, illness, lack of sleep and even suicides that occur within our broken school system students who have a 4.0 aren’t learning. These students, who do their 6 hours of homework a night, work and participate in several extracurricular activities all in a quest to get into a “good” college, are deficient in basic skills. A large number of college freshman need to take remedial math and writing courses. This indicates that despite their “good grades” they didn’t learn these skills. These students are the ones who are “achieving” and “succeeding” within the system, yet these students are not learning and are suffering greatly in the process. There was admission by some of the students in the film that they cheat or have cheated in the past to get a good grade and that cheating is common place. With the instances of cheating and the lack of actual learning taking place there needs to be some other measure of our kids besides just their grades, that measure is becoming ineffective. I have always found it interesting how when my children, who I plan to homeschool through 12th grade, apply to college they will have to be looked at as a whole person and admitted (or not) based on their experiences. This is because the college will not have grades to guide them. Why aren’t ALL students given this opportunity? Why do grades have to matter so much? Why are our children killing themselves over grades in a system that isn’t teaching them anyway?
The movie did a good job explaining the problem but was noticeably short on potential solutions. The suggestions were to talk with your district and have them see the film so they could be aware and encourage them to reduce the amount of homework or even have no homework nights. They also highlighted the Blue School in New York as a model alternative school. These are all minor changes and by no means the fundamental shift in education that this country needs. During the movie my gut reaction to these poor kids who were truly suffering within this system was, “Pull those kids out and homeschooling them!”. This certainly isn’t the work within the system to change the system approach the film maker wants people to take. There is also the reality that homeschooling isn’t for everyone and that there are financial implications to it too. That being said it would have been nice to have homeschooling represented in the film as another alternative. It’s an option that too many people don’t think of.
Overall the movie was worth seeing. The trailer is below and there are screenings taking place all over the country.