Sunday, March 13, 2011

Race to Nowhere

I've been dragging my feet on this post for a few days now. Mostly because I have very mixed feelings about this movie, and it would be a really big job to unpack all of that here.

I'll just say this... the movie deals with a fascinating topic (to me, anyway), "the dark side of America's achievement culture", and looks at some of the dysfunctional aspects of our educational system. Lots of good food for thought there, no doubt.

I was disappointed that the film maker relied mostly on emotional anecdotes to argue her point. Some of the most striking and memorable arguments from the film would have been much more effective if she backed them up with facts. For example, one "expert" she interviewed, by way of assuring us parents that grades aren't everything, mentions that the "world is run by C students."

And as she says "C students", the smiling mug of Bill Gates flashes on the screen.

The implication being, of course, that Bill Gates, wildly successful entrepreneur, business magnate, author, billionaire, philanthropist... was a C student.

Well, I don't have Mr. Gates' transcript, but the guy scored 1590 on his SAT, was accepted at Harvard University, and held a job as a Congressional page. I daresay, if all of our C students were that accomplished, this film never would have seen the light of day.

And by the way, how is assuring the parents of America that even C students will run the world supposed to diffuse the achievement hysteria that the movie rails against? Seems to me that kind of talk is more part of the problem than the solution.

So, that's just one small example (and I didn't even want to get into this, remember?) of why I found this movie to be such a disappointment. Education is an important issue. It's complex. There are kids being cheated at both ends of the have/have-not spectrum. Understandably, emotions run high in the debates over what's best. But, I think the debate is better served when we try to bring real information, facts, and research to the discussion, and leave the emotional manipulation out.


Lisa said...

Hey, Christine, move over - I'm jumping up there on that soapbox with you. I have been heavily engaged in this education issue for quite a while now and agree whole-heartedly with your post!!

Ms Mgt said...

Welcome aboard my soapbox, Lisa! It's nice to have the company... :)