Is Education a “Race to Nowhere?”


The documentary film “Race to Nowhere” is helping to initiate a debate on the unrealistic pressures put on some kids, from kindergarten to university, to focus on test scores, grades and trophies. The movie presents the downside of a childhood spent completing homework and being pushed by parents, teachers and coaches to succeed at everything. In the current educational climate, success is largely measured by high test scores. As a result, a successful student is one who can regurgitate information to pass a test. Unfortunately, the rigorous preparation process often causes the loss of creativity and critical thinking skills.

Vicki Abeles is the first-time filmmaker of “Race to Nowhere” the film that is causing thousands of viewers to rethink the purpose of education.  She picked up a camera after her 12 year old daughter started experiencing stomach pains and was later diagnosed with stress from school. The mother/filmmaker was trying to find out how we had gotten to the point where kids were becoming physically sick because of the pressures put on them by the school.  Families she observed were spending little time together as a result of schooling demands. Also parents feel compelled to follow the lead of the education system which is pushing, pushing and pushing  kids to be “successful”.

The demands currently placed on school children are unrealistic and detrimental to healthy social development. Teaching to succeed on tests narrows the definition of education. Education should be seen as preparation for life, not studying subjects to pass a test. When the goal becomes test scores, many problems develop. We are witnessing the problems every day -all over the world. Teachers complain about the lack of creativity and individual thinking. Children are suffering from childhood stress. And parents are doing “strange things” to ensure that their children succeed.

Just last month I heard the parent of a three year old child complaining that a two year old who won the bunny- hop race in which her child placed second, cheated. It should have been a fun toddlers’ race, but instead, “competitiveness” trickling through the education system caused an adult to hurl insane abuses at a child. And the insanity does not stop there. A report by David Mc Neill in the Chronicle of Higher Education recently spoke about a series of student suicides linked to a new policy that penalizes poorly performing university students in South Korea. One educator described the reform as one that was causing more stress and competition among students leading to suicides when students felt hopeless.


So it’s really great that Ms. Abeles has done a documentary that is encouraging debates by parents and teachers about the role of education. That film has already earned $6.3 million at the box office and ranks 20th among the most successful documentaries ever, according to Box Office Mojo,

Thumbnail Image: