Race to Nowhere

I’m not sure what Roger Ebert would say, but DANG!  Race to Nowhere is a must see in my opinion.

Here’s a blurb about the film from their website:

Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

It was one of those documentaries that manages to make you feel every emotion in the book from frustration, to anger, to sadness, to gratitude.  One of my favorite parts was squinting to see the schools that the teachers and students represented….probably about 80% were from the Bay Area.  Just seemed to make it more personalized and real and raw for me.

These are the kinds of movies that make me want to get back into the classroom and at the same time, run the other way.  It is tough out there.  Tons of competing pressures for teachers, from the school to the district to the state to the federal level, not to mention parents.  Everyone is pushing.  And the pushing messages compete with each other.  And what I’m starting to see and feel is that it’s the kids who get lost in all of this adult shuffling.  Why is that always the case??

I kept looking into the eyes of these students, just wanting to hug the screen to get my arms around them.  I wanted to hear their stories, send them little encouragement notes.  And affirm their wisdom.  Acknowledge the “rightness” of their concerns, fears, frustrations.  To remind them that their inkling and gut that the exhaustion (physical and mental) felt day in and day out, that drives them to stay up all night, to take stimulant drugs to help them function, the weight they’re losing from not having time to eat,the cheating they feel compelled to do, the lack of play and freedom in their lives, the depression they’re fighting….that all of those things ARE wrong.  That at 13 you shouldn’t feel like suicide is the only out from the pressure.

Lord, give us courage and insight to fight for our kids’ best.


Even though they gave lots of options for how to move forward, it is a path wrought with fear and challenges and discouragement and disbelief.  As a parent, a former educator, and a citizen of this fast-paced, often out-of-control culture, I am often stymied.  I am thinking, these days, that spending lots of time LISTENING is key for me.  Listening, and not trying to speak into their realities with all the answers.  Listening to kids and their stories.  I guess listening isn’t going to pay the bills for our family or be the biggest bullet point on my resume, but it seems like an important first step.

I am grateful for Kelsey, one of our youth group kiddlings, who was able to babysit the boys so I could go see this film….she got to make lots of fun domino trains to entertain the eldest.

By the way, Drew’s also available for listening….and he ALWAYS dresses fashionably for his counseling sessions.  Especially rocking the farm animal pants and “hello onsie” to make you feel welcomed.

Grateful for Sunnyvale Presbyterian for showing this film.  Check out the website for Race to Nowhere to find showings near your location and get a babysitter if you have to and GO SEE IT.  It won’t be an easy viewing, but it will make you think, ask questions and love on the kids and students in your sphere.

Happy Wednesday….tommorrow I’ll share about our fated trip to the park and ensuing trip to Urgent Care for stitches.  Here’s a teaser….

2 thoughts on “Race to Nowhere

  1. So glad to see you tackle a difficult topic in your daily blog. I too felt a bit overwhelmed with the film last night. As leaving I heard a couple of parents in the parking lot hoping that the Obamas would also attend “Race to Nowhere”. One common message that I heard strongly is that we are, unfortunately, teaching our children to be better test takers and not better, critical thinkers. The film had many poignant minders about the consequences of overworking and over scheduling at the expense of the arts & play – both from students and teachers. We’re burning the best of both of them out with the current system.

    It seems that much of the dramatic increase in homework loads are coming from the best intentions gone off track – as a response to the “No child left behind”. I realize the issues have been around longer — I remember an excellent book entitled “The hurried child”, for example, that explored many of the same issues. But the rate of change in workloads and the out of proportion days seem to be coming on like never before.

    Our son graduated HS only a few short years ago (2006), and I do not remember EVER having the amount of homework assigned in the cases in this movie. Of course we emphasized taking just a few honor classes rather than pushing to have him in every advance placement class offered. At the same time, he strongly benefited from the team sports (character development) and usually managed to get homework done to participate in three different youth groups over the course of most weeks. Perhaps King’s Academy (Sunnyvale, CA) is a role model school on how to be both strong academically (it is a Christian college preparatory junior & sr. high school) while not sacrificing character development and nurturing well rounded students.

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