On your mark, get set, why?
February 23, 2011
Going into the sold out screening of “Race to Nowhere” at Langley on Feb. 2, I could not have been more excited. Finally, adults would see the immense amount of pressure we high schoolers face living in 2011.
Walking out of the auditorium, my excitement was overshadowed by a combination of disappointment and desire to bring about change, but not the change director Vicki Abeles was asking of the nation.
“Race to Nowhere” is a documentary about the everyday pressures students face and the cheating, depression, and drug use that can result from these pressures.
The large assortment of topics was the very problem—with only 85 minutes, each segment could only scratch the surface. Two minutes about one student’s battle with anorexia somehow led to other countries outperforming the United States.
While Abeles pushes us to lift these pressures, truth of the matter is, competition defines our society.
“Stress is a natural part of life, and it’s learning how to cope with that stress that can be helpful. But it’s when stress gets out of balance that it becomes unhealthy for anyone,” said Latin teacher Dr. Joan Tannenbaum, who served on the post-film panel hosted by the Safe Community Coalition.
The strongest message of the film, however, was the “teaching to the test” mind-set that has taken over the system. A special scene conveyed the little value students now hold in their educations, as Stanford University’s Dr. Deborah Stipek told of her daughter’s relief after taking her AP French Exam—”Now I never have to speak French again.”
The increase in school’s emphasis of test scores along with student stress of obtaining the perfect grades have entirely shifted the focus of the schooling system.
“When people are trying to take on an overload of APs, you only have so much time for each class. Everyone just tries to memorize what they need to know for the tests,” said senior Vincent Ning.
As “Race to Nowhere” effectively conveys, this shift in value will only hurt the generations to come, as we struggle to penetrate the workforce but lack the abilities to critically think and analyze situations without a script.
The pressures will always remain, but it’s how we approach these pressures that will matter in the long run. The answer is not to completely lift these pressures, but to refocus our goals and how we define our success—thus continuing on this race, but eventually getting somewhere.