By Caren Grice
It became abundantly clear to me, about a month into my daughter’s kindergarten year, that her first precious year of formal education had changed dramatically in the three short years since my son had started kindergarten. While my husband, myself and her preschool teachers thought she was “ready”, at 5 ½ years old, she was not prepared for the expectations that were waiting for her. While she adjusted well as the months progressed, I had to wonder, what will each year bring and how will this affect her? This clearly sparked discussion and interest in so many of my friends, with children of all ages and it become abundantly clear that this is an epidemic of sorts, facing children of all ages, dangerously leading some to detachment, stress and sometimes depression, potentially leaving our children ill-prepared for their futures.
Race to Nowhere is a documentary produced by Vicki Abeles, a mother of three and ex-Wall Street lawyer who, after seeing the toll academic pressures were taking on her children, started a dialogue that comes to life in this film. Race to Nowhere features stories of children across the country who, heartbreakingly, face the struggles and pressures of an education system and social parameters that seem to be caught in the “quantity vs. quality” and “one size fits all” mentality. These children are pressured by parents (yes, parents), colleges and our government to learn more and do more, which potentially results in cheating (that one surprised me), depression and stress-related illnesses and more. Add to that social pressures and the combination is a weight I’m not sure I am prepared to carry. The testimonies of these children shocked me – I truly was not aware.
Race to Nowhere also speaks to our educators whose hands are tied, leaving them worried that these children are not developing the skills they need or leading them to burnout – an unfair burden to carry. And, finally, the film looks at us, the parents, who are doing the best we can to ensure success for our children, emotionally, academically and from a “whole life” perspective. Hard to do when you don’t understand all the rules and they keep changing.
My take away is multi-layered and I could bore you with my thoughts far longer than you’d like. I will tell you this…I am a different parent because of this film. Go see it and judge for yourself.
Race to Nowhere will be at SECCA on Tuesday, May 10 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets ($10) are available online at www.eventbrite.com or $15 at the door. If you are able to attend, we would love for you to join us after the screening at the Old Winston Social Club. We can chat about the film over a few drinks! We also posted information on the screening of “Race to Nowhere” when it ran in Greensboro last month, and quite a few of our readers were able to attend. Please let us know your thoughts on what you saw! … Rachel H