Hillary Chybinski: the state of education. . .

Thursday, January 06, 2011

the state of education. . .

Last night i had the privilege to watch a screening of the new documentary, Race to Nowhere - The Dark Side of America's Achievement Culture.

All I can say is OMG. . .it's been 12 hours since I got out of the film, and I can't shake the images and ideas from my mind.  It impacted the pep-talk I gave my 4th grader before school today.

There were so many amazing ideas and observations.  Listening to the kids talk about school and the way it makes them feel - was heartbreaking.  One image that touched me the most was the footage of little children, in preschool, playing and learning and laughing - bright, shiny faces eager to learn. . .then older kids, in middle and high school. . .not smiling, heads on their desks, worry lines on their foreheads, frantically taking notes. . .not even a glimmer of enjoyment on their bright faces.  It was heartbreaking. . .

Two themes that stuck with me were over-scheduling and homework.  Kids these days (in order to stay competitive to get into a "good" school) must play an instrument, get perfect grades, do community service, have extra curricular activities and play a sport.  When are they just a kid?  Add to that an hour (if you are lucky) or more of homework every night. . .and don't all the "Good Parenting" guides tell us to have family meal time together - not only that - one that includes raw, healthy, made-from-scratch food. . .how does it all fit in??

The experts interviewed in the film were wonderful - the teachers they spoke with - were AMAZING - truly talented, enthusiastic, caring teachers.  An interesting segment brought up how much teachers are revered in other countries - how they are held in such high regard. . .as compared to America, where it's an admirable, albeit necessary job. . .that pays "not that great" in the grand scheme of things.

Where would our country be if Teachers were paid like Football Players? Or Rock Stars? Or CEOs?  Could it possibly make a difference if our priorities were re-aligned?  I'd be willing to bet the farm it would make a huge difference.

I hope if you get the opportunity to see the film, you will.  It takes a village right - and we all benefit from living in that village.  If you are unfamiliar, here is an excerpt from the film's press kit:

A concerned mother turned filmmaker aims her camera at the culture of hollow achievement and pressure to perform that has invaded Americaʼs schools. It is destroying our childrenʼs love of learning and feeding an epidemic of unprepared, disengaged, and unhealthy students.
This remarkable new film shines a light on the price our kids pay for this “race to nowhere.” Cheating is commonplace, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and ironically, young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.
Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people who have been pushed to the brink and educators who are burned out and worried that students arenʼt developing the skills needed for the global economy, RACE TO NOWHERE points to the silent epidemic running rampant in our schools.
RACE TO NOWHERE is a call to families, educators, experts and policy makers to examine current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become the healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens in the 21st century.
Among many others, RACE TO NOWHERE features Dr. Madeline Levine, author of the best- seller, The Price of Privilege, Dr. Deborah Stipek, Dean of the Stanford School of Education, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, an adolescent medicine specialist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Denise Pope, author of Doing School, and Sara Bennett, author of The Case Against Homework.

I came right home, went online, registered with the site and signed the petition.  You can do the same here.

If you see it - I'd love to have a discussion on your thoughts.

catch you soon -

note - while I did not have to purchase a ticket, it was not provided by the film, or anyone associated with it.  I was not asked or influenced in any manner to write this post.  As always the opinions here are my very own.

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