Race to Nowhere, a documentary about the high-pressure and high-stakes nature of our country’s education system and its effect on young students, teachers, and parents, was screened at the Castro Valley Center for the Arts on Jan. 20.
The film primarily featured stories of students who face stress-induced illnesses like stomach pain, depression, and even suicide, all because of pressures to excel in advanced classes and balance numerous extracurricular activities in order to get into good colleges.
While the film does raise valid points about the competitive nature of our schools, I believe it only reflects the concerns of a small portion of the education system’s population.
Not everyone balances six Advanced Placement (AP) classes, sports, and music and suffers from the pressures of the need to overachieve. There are those who simply do not care much about school and a majority of students who are sensible and only participate in a reasonable balance of classes and activities. Personally, I know more students who are able to balance hectic schedules successfully than those who have suffered physically from doing the same.
An issue in the film I found that rang true was the test-dependent nature of our education system. From the STAR to the CAHSEE to the SAT, students are constantly being tested for their academic competence.
However, the tests are not as useful as educators may think. A student in the film says he usually crams into his brain only the necessary information that will show up on a test, and empties his mind of all the knowledge right after the test. I completely agree as I find myself doing the same quite often.
After the screening of the film, a panel consisting of child psychiatrists, counselor Duane Magno, the director of the documentary, Vicki Abeles, and other professionals were on stage to answer questions from the audience and encourage dialogue.
As expected, after about an hour of discussion of similar situations, nothing close to a feasible solution to the problem of our education system was proposed. Of course, this problem is not going to be solved anytime soon, especially in our society’s culture of competition encouragement.
However, that is exactly my point. There is no solution and there does not need to be a solution. There will always be winners and losers. The education system may be flawed, but it is still highly functional and a majority of people are able to succeed with it.
I would love to have a perfect, functional education with no woes like budget cuts but it is simply not possible. I believe the film is implying a bigger problem in our schools than actually exists.