Race to Nowhere (2009/2010)

Race to Nowhere

A scene from RACE TO NOWHERE, a film directed by Vicki Abeles.

Race to Nowhere

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Opened: 09/10/2010 Limited

Full Schedule09/10/2010
IFC Center09/10/2010 - 09/16/20107 days
Sunset 5/LA09/10/2010 - 09/16/20107 days

Genre: Documentary

Rated: PG-13 for thematic material involving stress on adolescents.

Short Synopsis

A concerned mother turned filmmaker aims her camera at the culture of hollow achievement and pressure to perform that has invaded America's schools. It is destroying our children's love of learning and feeding an epidemic of unprepared, disengaged, and unhealthy students.

This remarkable new film shines a light on the price our kids pay for this "race to nowhere." Cheating is commonplace, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and ironically, young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people who have been pushed to the brink and educators who are burned out and worried that students aren't developing the skills needed for the global economy, RACE TO NOWHERE points to the silent epidemic running rampant in our schools.

RACE TO NOWHERE is a call to families, educators, experts and policy makers to examine current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become the healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens in the 21st century.

Among many others, RACE TO NOWHERE features Dr. Madeline Levine, author of the bestseller, The Price of Privilege, Dr. Deborah Stipek, Dean of the Stanford School of Education, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, an adolescent medicine specialist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Denise Pope, author of Doing School, and Sara Bennett, author of The Case Against Homework.

Long Synopsis

The generation of the 21st Century is faced with more complex, global problems than any previous age. Potentially devastating environmental, economic and social challenges abound. Parents today are expected to raise high-achieving children, skilled in a multitude of talents, all at the highest levels, to respond to these challenges. Bombarded by academic standards, competition for educational opportunities, and run-away schedules, young people struggle to accommodate the intense demands.

After a series of wake up calls in her family and the devastating loss of a young woman's life, concerned Mom and filmmaker Vicki Abeles, picks up the camera to make a difference. By chronicling her own family's intense schedule, she takes the viewer on an intimate journey into the center of the daily struggle to balance academic commitments and cultural expectations, with healthy personal needs.

From nights at the dinner table doing homework, to the desks of education and child psychology experts, Ms. Abeles' camera take us straight into the heart of the question, "Given current education modalities, (the pressure for test scores, over-scheduled lives of young people, highly competitive parental pressure, disenfranchised student populations and teachers stretched to their limits), are we preparing our children to become the healthy and bright world leaders that we need for the future?'

RACE TO NOWHERE is the story of what happens when, through healthy, normal, developmental needs, a gap develops between inner needs and the high stakes, unyielding demands of today's preparation for young people to enter society. It is a groundbreaking documentary feature film that examines the colossal price being paid, by today's students, for the achievement-obsessed way of life that permeates America.

Abeles takes viewers to schools across the country to feature the stories of students who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burnt out and worried students aren't learning anything substantive and college professors and business leaders, concerned the incoming young people lack the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. The stories of several young people, parents and a teacher are intercut with scenes of family life and in-depth interviews with top experts in education, medicine, and psychology -- providing a deep and varied context that underscores the enormity of a potentially looming crisis.

In 2010, competitive, self-assured, achievement-oriented, young people prepare relentlessly to enter a culture that demands nothing less than their personal best, all day, every day. From preschool through college, children are pressured, pushed, coached, sculpted, scheduled and reviewed, running a never-ending gauntlet towards adulthood.

What happens when personal best is not good enough? What happens when personal best changes into personal nightmare? The unintended consequences of an achievement-obsessed culture can be catastrophic for families and children alike. The mental health of young people may suffer, leading to depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, self-mutilation, and suicide -- not to mention binge drinking, self-medication and drug abuse. We are graduating a generation of young people who have been trained as robo-students, unable to think and work independently, creatively, and collaboratively and who are returning home after college in increasing numbers. Industry is spending billions retraining these graduates.

Shot in gritty cinema verite, as well as sophisticated documentary style, RACE TO NOWHERE is a far-reaching, in-depth profile of childhood and education, which underscores the urgency with which adults must address this looming crisis.