Parents and faculty gathered on Jan. 26 in the Academic Resource Center for a screening of Race to Nowhere, a documentary that highlights the pressure put on high school students and the side effects of that stress. The documentary, which features anecdotes from students, teachers and parents, as well as commentary by clinical psychologists and other specialists, has been screened at other independent schools across the United States, including Brentwood and Oakwood.
School Counselor Emily Vaughn saw the movie at a private pre-school in Santa Monica and suggested to Head of School Barbara Wagner that the School show the film to parents and faculty.
“Marlborough is really a progressive environment, and we need to be in front of these things,” she said. Vaughn said that she thinks the film is important in encouraging faculty and parents to think about how we educate the students of today.
“Traditionally, we all went to school to get information. Now, we live in an information-latent world, so are the skills about jamming your head with information or something else?” she said.
Kait ’12 said that the stress level of students has reached a point of ridiculousness.
“I don’t think it’s normal for sixteen year-old girls to be crying everyday over something as trivial as homework,” she said.
Assistant Head of School and Director of Upper School Laura Hotchkiss said that the film offers an opportunity to reflect upon the concerns brought up in the parent/ student survey about work/life balance.
“It’s another opportunity to open up dialogue about supporting students and to talk about how there has to be effort on all parts [to achieve that balance],” she said.
After the screening, parents and faculty had the opportunity to ask questions. Although Vaughn planned a question and answer session via Skype with film director Vicki Abeles, technological difficulties cut the session short. Nonetheless, attendees were still able to share their thoughts.
Elizabeth Richmond, mother of Anita ’16, said that seeing the film was a “sobering” experience.
“It’s not just parents or students or colleges, or even that one soccer coach you had when you were eight. It’s all of us. There’s a question of what makes us happy and how do we best achieve that for our children,” Richmond said.
Science instructor Elizabeth Ashforth, who saw the film at her children’s elementary school before it was screened at Marlborough, said that the film really struck a chord with her as a mother of young children.
“I see my children getting the ridiculous race. It’s heartbreaking,” Ashforth said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s gotten to this level of insanity.”
Ashforth said she thinks the movie should be targeted at parents of younger children in particular to give them a preview of what lies ahead.
“It’s a great movie because it spreads the message that this [pressure] is everywhere, and it’s taken the fun out of the time of your life when you should be having fun,” she said.
Clips of the movie have also been shown to faculty, and the Parents Association held a follow-up coffee on Feb. 14 for parents who wanted to continue discussing issues brought up by the film.