Race to Nowhere

It’s no secret that I have deep concern about parenting in today’s culture.  I’ve talked about my resistance to over-scheduling my children, my worries about how to preserve wonder in their lives, and my concerns about the overall intensity that seems to be taking over childhood.  I wrote a post on Zen Family Habits about my commitment to and concerns about limiting after-school programming with the kids, I read and loved Lenore Skenazy’s Free Range Kids, and basically this is a drum I’ve beat over and over.  I’m desperate to raise trusting, hopeful children who are able to entertain themselves in a world that seems to squash that out of them no matter what I do.

I experience a constellation of themes and of worries that coalesce into a general unease about the world I’m bringing my children up in.  That said, I’m not entirely sure I understand exactly what the basic issue is, or how to unravel the various things that bother me.  My worries, while very troublesome, remain somewhat inchoate.

It was with great enthusiasm that I read about the new film Race to Nowhere, which strives to understand the root causes of what feels like an epidemic of stress.  Through the lens of particular stories, this film purports to bring to light the undercurrent of stress in parenting school-age children today.  I can’t wait to see it.  From the film’s marketing materials:

Race to Nowhere is a documentary film examining the pressures faced by young people, teachers and parents in our high-stakes, high-pressure public and private education system and culture.  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 trying to do what’s best for their kids.  Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, experts, and policy makers to examine current assumptions on how best to prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens of today and for the future.

If you live in the Boston area, please join me and others at a screening of Race to Nowhere next week.  The film is playing at 5:30 on January 26th at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square, and I’d love, love, love to see you there.  I many not entirely understand the root of the issue, but I’m crystal clear that it will require collaboration, trust, and community to begin to solve it.

Click HERE for more information on the showing on January 26th, and to purchase tickets.  I look forward to seeing you there.

21 thoughts on “Race to Nowhere”

  1. Yes, yes. I’m in. You articulated something I’ve been trying to but can’t: what is at the root of all this? What makes people go into a frenzy about the Tiger Mother? What are we all DOING?

  2. Hey, Lindsey, great minds think alike, my inbox is full of people trying to set up a screening on the North Shore, and just yesterday I was in a meeting with public school teachers lamenting how much the MCAS cuts into their abilities to do innovative things with their kids. Sigh.

    I do recommend the movie to anyone who can see it. There are grassroots screenings in lots of different places this weekend and next. Check your local listings, as they say!

  3. It has been a full week for those of us thinking about parenting…Between seeing Race to Nowhere, and reading Amy Chua’s article in the Wall Street Journal about the “superiority of Chinese mothering”, I’ve been filled with lots of questions…Sadly, not as many answers. But, I’m trying to write about it too, which usually brings some clarity.
    I, too, recommend the film to anyone who is concerned about our children and the cultural push to over-achieve. Thanks!

  4. Hi Lindsey, great post. You might be interested, but after you see the movie, of Scott McLeod’s post on it (he’s seen it) and he lists 30 quotes from the film and an interesting perspective on “kids aren’t getting a chance to find out what they love to do,” talks about a discussion of educators on the film and possible remedies, and poignantly says at the end: “I try to remember to ask my kids daily if they have a happy life. I hope they’ll always be honest with me.” Link: http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2011/01/i-really-liked-race-to-nowhere.html?

    Have a wonderful weekend xoxo

  5. I’m going to see it too. Ironically with a group of people who have their kids in a zillion activities, but whatever. Thanks for writing about this. I am definitely pro-boredom. That’s when we came up with all the fun stuff! Kids need more time to just be.

  6. I can’t wait to see this film and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and if you are able to engage other parents in looking at the myriad challenging issues around schooling and in addressing them.

    Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” and I’ve never doubted this maxim.

    I tried to form a small group of parents to address some issues in the public school my son attended for his first days of Kindergarten. It wasn’t successful and you can read more about that story here:


    But I believe parents who see this film are willing to do the work (they will “self-select” as they say in research studies), and I intend to remain optimistic that we can effect change.

    Again, I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

  7. Hi Lindsey. Wanted to chime in that I have seen the movie and would recommend it to everyone, along with Waiting for Superman. Together they paint a picture of why our schools, particularly our public schools are leading kids in the wrong direction. One shocking factoid from the film – something like a third of the children today who are admitted into Ivy League Schools need remedial help in order to do the work required. Not because they are not bright, but because they have been trained to memorize for a test and then move on. Nothing they learn has meaning past the exam. Essential life skills like creativity and collaboration are not taught at all.

  8. Glad to hear this doc has made it out to the Boston area. It’s been playing in the Bay Area off and on over the past year and it’s had a big impact on a lot of people’s thinking around this subject. I can’t point to any radical changes in local policy. But I’ve been amazed at the large amount of homework our 8 year old has in second grade. We’ve backed way off on requiring him to do it every night, and the teachers have been flexible on this.

    I wish it was getting the attention the much more flawed “Waiting For Superman” has attracted.

  9. Oh, I so would’ve been there if I lived nearby! I agree so much…I am one of the few parents I know who don’t push my kids, and sometimes, I must admit, I question myself: Will they fall behind? Will he be able to keep up with the kids who practice soccer drills three times a week? Will he miss out if we don’t start his music lessons now? And the worst part is that sometimes Hubby and I realize that we are so worried about pushing too much that we don’t provide our kids with opportunities. It’s such a fine line.
    And, on top of this, I’m a teacher too. And I stress all the time about not giving my kids “enough” for the state tests, and then I worry about them getting “too much” for the test and missing out on all the others life skills we no longer have the time to teach.

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