Race to Nowhere Review
Our kids are stressed out, sleep deprived, and have their identities firmly tied to the grades they receive in school. School is no longer a place for children to eagerly explore their world and feed their natural curiosity. Instead it’s a terrifying place where they are constantly evaluated and fed ceaseless messages that they must achieve to have value. Even worse, the torment doesn’t stop when the bell rings, as students are receiving increasing amounts of homework, robbing them of opportunities to play outside, spend time with their families, and just be kids. Is this what we want for our children?
This is the bleak picture painted by the documentary “Race to Nowhere” which you can find on Netflix as of July 2016. As an eighth grade teacher, I confess that I’ve been completely blinded to this reality. But as I was watching, I slowly started to realize the harm I do to my students every time I harp on their grades. I regularly use grades as a threat: “If you don’t do ____, you’re not going to like your grade.” This is not the mark I want to leave on my students!
Professors and employers are beginning to see the effects of this obsession with tests and grades. Medical school professors note that their students feel entitled to know exactly what is going to be on the test and don’t want to think about anything beyond it. What happened to the thrill of being posed a challenging situation and using problem-solving skills to creatively solve it? The biggest concerns of the new generation of lawyers are how many paragraphs they need to write as opposed to going out, finding problems, and solving them.
We mean well, but we cannot put so much at stake on an end-of-year test and expect to produce young adults who are deep thinkers and creative problem solvers. Instead of teaching testing skills, we need to teach kids how to persevere in solving new problems, think critically, draw conjectures, justify their methods, and effectively communicate their conclusions. The focus must be off of grades and placed on learning for the excitement and challenge that it brings. I highly recommend this “Race to Nowhere” for teachers, parents, and anyone involved in America’s education system.
As teachers, we can do a world of good for the students whom we see daily for an entire school year. We can carefully consider the homework we assign and make sure that it is purposeful. The Race to Nowhere website gives the following criteria for teacher’s to reflect on when assigning homework:
- Homework should advance a spirit of learning
- Homework should be student-directed
- Homework should promote a balanced schedule.
You can read more here: http://www.racetonowhere.com/sites/default/files/RTN-Homework-Guidelines.pdf