Race to Nowhere (2010)
This 85-minute documentary grew out of the personal experience of the film maker Vicki Abeles. When her daughter reached middle school, she started having head aches, stomach aches, and sleeplessness. A doctor diagnosed her with a stress disorder, which is to say that school was making her physically sick. In my own daughter's school, five students committed suicide her senior year. Abeles's film is a cry from the heart about our educational system and the broader cultural undercurrents that make school such a negative experience for many children — too much home work, too many tests, pressure to get into a great university, cheating, extra-curricular activities, etc. There are many actors and complex issues here — family systems, kids, schools, teachers, administrators, school boards, policy makers (local, state, federal), budget makers, the tutoring industry, the college ratings game, and so on. There are also some apparent contradictions not addressed. If so many of our schools are so bad, why is emphasizing achievement wrong? With all the emphasis on competition and achievement, why do American schools compare poorly with other advanced countries? The film also makes little distinction between local situations and the entire nation. Still, this film is a great conversation starter about how we define and then help our children experience "success" in life, beginning at school. I watched it on Netflix Streaming.