The latest edition of The Rio Mirada included a "man on the street" photo/quote piece based on the recent school showings of Race to Nowhere.
Those outside of K-12 education may not have heard of Race to Nowhere. My sense is that its release more or less coincided with Waiting for Superman. And in the marketplace of mainstream cinema, there's only room for one provocative K-12-based documentary at a time. Waiting for Superman is a big-budget, slickly-produced indictment of America's public school system. Race to Nowhere is much more modest in scope and production values. (While Superman enjoyed wide release and a John Legend soundtrack, Nowhere had a one-week theatrical run on two screens and a Weepies* soundtrack.)
Nowhere's real play has come from viewing "parties" organized in school communities. Its real market is America's "Kindergarten-to-Harvard" school communities. The film documents the pressures that mount on high-expectation students.
It turns out that some students who hope to gain admission to America's most exclusive ("elite") colleges and universities find themselves in over their heads with curricular and extra-curricular activities.
The consequences are shown: some students cheat, some drop out, some abuse prescription drugs, many are unhappy and unfulfilled. The film calls for a general "dialing it down a notch."
There are specific recommendations for students, parents, teachers, and administrators.
Although the Mirada piece polled students, it did not ask them if they were taking any of Nowhere's advice for students. Are they speaking to adults about how they feel? Are the getting plenty of sleep? Unplugging and slowing down? Limiting their extra-currilular activities? Seeking colleges that use a comprehensive [rather than objective] approach to looking at applicants? The Mirada asked none of these questions.
The one thing The Mirada did want to know was whether or not the students noticed an immediate reduction in homework assigned by teachers. I'll let readers speculate on what the resounding consensus was.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to be any kind of Thaddeus Bristol here. And if I were a student who had seen Nowhere, that's what I would hope for, too: less homework and more play time.
A few years ago, The Mirada ran an article questioning the whole concept of Advanced Placement. The author wondered why anyone would subject themselves to an academically rigorous class—senior year—that culminated in paying money to take a test! The concept appeared flawed on at least three levels.
Rio's demographics have changed. And the school district has expressed an interest in removing barriers (such as preparedness tests or prerequisites) to Advanced Placement courses.
Taken together, we're hoping that more students (who don't want to take AP courses) will take AP courses, regardless of their preparation or aptitude. Once enrolled, students should not be assigned much homework and should be assessed without so many tests.
Am I a hopeless curmudgeon for not seeing how this plays out successfully? Check the comments for my perspective.