Finding balance in the second half of life

No Hurry

In Community on December 13, 2010 at 8:00 am

I’m thinking of starting a new column on documentaries called “I Haven’t Seen the Film But I Read the Review.”

My latest want-to-see-but-probably-won’t-until-Netflix-has-it is Race to Nowhere, a documentary produced and directed by Vicki Abeles, a concerned mother who picked up a video camera to  document the stories of children, parents, and teachers caught up in a system so focused on ACT scores and the demands of college admissions offices that no one has time to wonder whether real learning — or even real preparation for participation in the adult world — is taking place.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, Race to Nowhere questions both the pressure and the value of college prep curricula that have teachers teaching to tests like the ACT and Advanced Placement exams and students desperately trying to learn the formula for a high-scoring “timed writing” while running from soccer to Science Olympiad to community service projects in an effort to build an admissions-friendly resume as a well-rounded, four-point-oh, SAT-acing 17-year-old.

When my oldest son was in high school, I encouraged him to take as many AP classes as possible. As a result, he was able to complete his BA in 3 years — one year ahead of his peers to enter a job market that has no use for their degrees or their SAT scores.  By the time my youngest got to high school, I was much less inclined to push him to mold himself into the ideal college applicant. I’m thinking that if his lack of AP credits and heavy focus on independent studies in music keep him from getting into the college of his choice, well, he can take a year of community college and reapply. I’m thinking, what’s the hurry?  I’m thinking it would be a good idea for schools and communities to schedule a screening of Race to Nowhere.

–Debra Wierenga

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  1. Note to my 16-year-old self: skip college (you will spend a lot of years paying for a degree that you will barely use) and spend more time on the beach.

  2. Bravo! I couldn’t agree more.

  3. There’s more to life than doing homework and acing tests.

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