Tonight, my son’s preschool screened a documentary entitled Race To Nowhere. This is a powerful film about how our educational system puts too much stress on children to succeed. Children do hours and hours of homework, lose sleep, get headaches and stomach problems, take drugs to help them stay up to finish homework, and then still feel like failures when they can’t keep up. Teachers get burned out by a system that expects and demands them to produce high test scores, rather than teach to the needs and interests of the students.
On the heels of a recent post, where I discuss the demands of an increasingly academic Kindergarten environment, this film challenges us as parents to think about a number of important questions regarding our children’s future education:
- What do we want our children to get out of school?
- What would an ideal day look like for our child?
and most importantly
- “What does it take to produce a happy, motivated, creative human being?”
The film had A number of interesting and shocking points , but one of the more eye-opening to me was the fact that the people entering the work force now in their twenties don’t seem to have the same critical thinking skills as the workers in their thirties do, perhaps due to the culture of test-taking machines that were churned out in the late nineties and increased significantly around the start of No Child Left Behind.
After watching this film, there was a discussion amongst the parents and educators in the room. When the topic of homework came up, the parent of a Kindergarten boy raised her hand and said her son has 20 pages of homework per week.
She is in a constant struggle to get her child to complete this work. He goes to bed at 9:00 or 10:00 every night due to all of his work. He’s exhausted and doesn’t like school (understandably).
When she asked the teacher why there was so much, the response was that this was how much the district required in order to prepare the students for the standardized tests in the spring, so there was nothing she could do.
What happens if this five-year-old boy doesn’t complete his homework? He doesn’t get to play outside at recess.
So, what does she do? She ends up doing it for him.
She made me cry.
From the film’s website: Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.
There is something very wrong with the system. I urge you to get involved in this movement and start a dialogue in your local community. Host a screening. Post it on your Facebook page. Get involved.
Here is the trailer for the movie: