Tuesday, December 14, 2010
"Race to Nowhere"
I thought for my first blog I’d start with something simple and review a recent article from the New York Times by Trip Gabriel entitled, “Parents Embrace Documentary on Pressures of School”. http://www.nytimes.com/chrome/#/a/http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/education/09nowhere.html The article is a review of the reactions by parents and school leaders to the documentary “Race to Nowhere”. “Race to Nowhere” focuses its attention on the pressures that students feel when “schools pile on hours of homework and coaches turn sports into year-round obligations”. It quotes a child psychologist from the documentary as saying, “When success is defined by high grades, test scores, trophies, we know that we end up with unprepared, disengaged exhausted and ultimately unhealthy kids.”
I haven’t seen the documentary but I certainly would like to see it and form my own opinion. I’ve been on many sides of this debate based on my position in the educational system at the time. As a teacher and coach, I felt that it was my responsibility to “pressure” students to achieve their very best both in the classroom and on the athletic field. I never saw any of my students or student-athletes buckle under the pressure nor did I see any horrible consequences result. As I became a more experienced teacher, I lessened the homework load but only to address the students that wouldn’t do it not for fear of over-challenging the ones that did complete it. My coaching career took a different path, however. I began to push less and less as I saw parents push more and more. By the end of my coaching career, my attitude toward coaching sports was more to make sure that the kids enjoyed it rather than hated it. I did this due to the pressure their parents (and often the athlete) placed on the outcome of a given game/season.
Now, I have a son and I worry that he’ll fall into this same trap that “Race to Nowhere” addresses. I’d certainly like to think that I won’t put unnecessary pressure on him to achieve but maybe that isn’t enough. Regardless of my expectations, he’ll develop goals of his own that may internally drive him to be the very best. Is that such a bad thing? I suppose only if it leads him down a path of self-destruction in an effort to achieve his ideals or if he responds negatively to coming up short of his goals.
There has to be balance in all of these areas. Every child is different but if the educational system and the parents work together, then maybe we can achieve that balance.
Posted by Tom Kitchen