You're encouraged to join and participate in what I hope will be an on-going conversation. Your participation will make this effort a much more worthwhile endeavor. Be sure to click on the "Comments" tab below to read what others have written in response. I look forward to hearing more from you.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Race to Nowhere" Attracting Attention

"Race to Nowhere" is a documentary film that is actually in a race its producer may not have initially expected.  This race seems to be one in which an increasing number of (affluent) communities throughout the United States can't arrange a showing fast enough. 

Briefly, the film is about this "race" in which students feel they must participate in order to compete for the few seats available in the most selective colleges this country has to offer.  Occupying one of these seats, so goes the thinking, will supposedly guarantee a life of grand success. 

This "race", in the process, is producing a generation of stressed-out, depressed, and increasingly disengaged kids who see little value in learning other than amassing AP credits and the like.  Other students are opting out of the "race", and some are so turned off by this "exercise" that they are opting out of learning altogether.

The previous post was on the status of AP courses.  This is a continuation on the theme.

You may want to spend about twenty minutes viewing the two short clips posted on this film.  Each is listed to the right under "Short Videos".  After viewing them, you may also want to post an opinion. 

While you're at it, why not spend a few more minutes at this site and click on any (or all) of the short clips addressing the state of the American Dream.   I wonder if this "Race to Nowhere" and the "American Dream" are intimately linked.  Or is there a disconnect here - one where an argument is being made for downshifting the pace of learning and the other calling for an uptick in order to prepare students for a world that is becoming increasingly more competitive?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Doug, for bringing this important topic up for discussion. I have heard my own kids utter the same words the kids in the film had said "I just memorize the stuff for the test and then once it's over, I forget it. Don't need most of it in my life." I think what has happened in our schools is that we have a system that is out of sync with where our kids are today. They have grown up with technology, which allows them to be very independent and self directed. And we put them into an educational environment that teaches them using old methods of lecture and read, lecture and read. I believe that if we got out of our kids way and allowed them to be more self directed in their learning, they would learn more and be more engaged in their learning. This would require teachers to become more facilitators than traditional teachers. Learning would be flexible, depending on the learning style of the student. It might include online learning done at home, mixed with small group project work and even work in which they collaborate with students around the world (online). Once they got into High School, they could choose a pathway that interests them and all of their coursework would revolve around that theme, so there is relevance to the student as to why they are studying something. For those students who don't have strong interests going in to high school, there would be a pathway for that that would expose them to a multitude of paths. By their junior year, they should be in a better position to narrow their choices. Kids are wired to want to learn. I think what we've done is turn them into memorization robots. Time to rethink teaching methods.