On Tuesday I got to see the documentary Race to Nowhere which examines the pressure US teens are under to perform in academics and extracurriculars. For many they feel like losers if they don’t get straight A’s, win every game and every election. This isn’t exactly news, but with the proliferation of AP classes and pressure to get into a top-tier university high school and even junior high have become pressure cookers. There’s just too much homework and too many practices and too much stress.
While the film made some good points, the filmmaking needed some polish. I agree with the discussion moderator that far too many people spoke. She got to 55 and stopped counting. It just was draining to see so many people provide facts that support the same thesis. A few strands and speakers would have made a more powerful, in-depth argument.
I’d like to have seen a definite call to action in the form of a clear statement of what should be done. Eliminate AP courses? Limit the number of such courses a student can take at a time? Protest standardized testing as some have done in Massachusetts? End homework as they’ve done in New Zealand and other places? What?
It seems parental pressure is a main cause for the stress and ill health children suffer. A lot of this “education problem” is just smoke and mirrors, a distraction so citizens don’t question a failing economic system and just blame schools instead.
After the screening at Glenbrook North, there was a panel discussion. I was struck by the wisdom and relevance of the psychologist and science teacher who spoke. The other educators really rambled and made me question their intelligence a tad if they can’t put together an insightful 5 minute spiel on their field.