If the modern mother lives anywhere near lots of other modern mothers it is likely that she has seen or will shortly be seeing the film Race to Nowhere.  She may have been excited to see it, based on what she had read and the fact that she has what are now considered non-conformist views regarding education.  Without spoiling the movie, it is about how stressed, depressed, over-scheduled, over-homeworked and under-slept today's youth are. It is also very emotional.

Yet, this modern mother might have found this movie disappointing.  As she reflects and attempts to put her finger on what bothered her, she knows it was not learning about an AP science teacher who cut his student's homework in half and found the AP scores for that class went up.  After all, this modern mother is a proponent of meaningful assignments that promote deep critical thinking and problem solving instead of busy work.  This modern mother is 100% in favor of more sleep.  She is also opposed to stress, depression and over-scheduling.  She furthers thinks it would be wonderful for teachers to be revered like hedge-fund managers and paid like doctors.  So really, one would think, she should have been a big fan of the film.

Maybe her beef is this: while the movie placed much of the blame on schools and government, this modern mother came away feeling that the problems these parents are complaining about are largely of their own making (for those who have seen it - this comment does not apply to the tragedy in the film).  After all, who is telling these children they need to get straight A's to succeed?  Who is driving these children to their myriad activities and asking the school for more homework, more honors and AP classes?  Who is so afraid that their children will not get into a top tier college that they start preparing their child's college resume in 6th grade?

Today's reality is this: the children of parents who attended top tier colleges have a much lower change of being accepted by a similarly ranked institution.  Of course this sounds scary.  All parents want what the best for their child.  But are parents taking the time to understand who their child is and what would be best for him or her?  Because statistically, if the majority of any population is gifted - doesn't that just make gifted the new average?

Ok, so it's good that these parents have woken up and are trying to stop managing their children, their children's activities and homework. It's good they want to tell the world that over-scheduling and constant pushing is taking a huge toll on the mental health of school children and young adults in college.   It's good they want to illustrate how these children are freaking out and failing out because really, it seems to this modern mother, you can only force someone to do things and pretend to be someone they aren't for so long.

So, a few days after seeing Race to Nowhere, this modern mothers finds herself thinking:  power to the people - yes, of course, stop the madness. Change the system, but in the meantime don't forget to change your own definition of a successful child.  How about embracing a child of average grades, with a real passion for something, someone you enjoy talking to at dinner, who works hard, knows how to get along with people and is not afraid to fail?  Accept that those attributes may not get her into a top college these days, but those are the skills that will get her far in life. 

So, go see this thought-provoking movie,  and please tell us what you think.  


Kate said...

I really have no desire to see this because it will upset me. Parents who overschedule and pressure their children irk me to no end. If I were a Southern Baptist, I'd say "AMEN SISTAH" to your comment about stopping the madness. I am an Episcopalian, so I will just say, God Bless.

well read hostess said...

We're trying to do a screening of this at "our" school. Nothing makes me more sad that sitting in meetings with parents and kids listening to parents emphasize their kids' deficits rather than focus on their strengths. When did we start to expect kids to be experts at everything?

Gina said...

Haven't seen the movie, Liz, but just love your thoughts. Let's hear it for letting our kids just be!

Linda said...

I am with you, Liz. If we simply love and embrace our children for who they are and not who we (or, worse yet, society) think they should be, we would all be happier. I think therein lies our challenge as modern mothers.

Allison said...

I am torn about this, too. My kid loves school but is doing homework in kindergarten. What's up with that? And yet -- I was bored in school until I got to St. Andrew's...and loved every minute of the pressure there. I'm not sure what to make of that at all!

EBB said...

Allison, I think the distinction for me lies in who is putting on the pressure. Some children are inherently driven to excel. The problem comes when the parents are driven and have very limited ideas about what is acceptable from their children. See the film if you get the chance. Thanks for reading.

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