Race to Nowhere
While surely not the norm in American education today, the daunting, competitive, and stressful world in which some affluent U.S. students live is still worthy of attention—and a movie. Race to Nowhere, a new film by mother-come-documentarian Vicki Abbels explores the negative effects of the high-stakes, highly competitive world of middle-to-upper class families. It argues that, when students begin to over-prioritize GPAs and college applications, learning becomes an afterthought, not the primary focus of education. This is a common meme—see books from the same genre, such as Pressured Parents, Stressed out Kids and Doing School. But Vicki Abbels, the film’s director, deserves credit for including some oft overlooked subgroups of American students. Along with the affluent, she connects with a few high schoolers from lower-income families, pressured by their parents to win college scholarships or to be the first in the family to attend post-secondary school. This grassroots documentary has caused quite a stir in well-to-do communities and surely adds to the current debates on A.P. restructuring, “Chinese parents,” and the American education system writ large. Unfortunately, while Abbels and her team do well framing the issue—creating overworked, sleep-deprived, college-application-obsessed kids is no good—her proposed solutions disappoint. In fact, she offers but one, simple and inadequate: Assign less homework.
Vicki Abbels, director, “Race to Nowhere,” (Lafayette, CA: Reel Link Films, 2010).
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