Students pushed to the limit. Burned out teachers. Worried parents. These are the characters in Race to Nowhere, a documentary screening at community events around the country, including three screenings in St. Louis over the next few weeks. Filmmaker Vikci Abeles has called the film “a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens. ”
Today on St. Louis on the Air, we gathered students Maddy Bullard and Ikshu Neithalath, Clayton Counseling Department Chair Carolyn Blair, and St. Louis University Professor of Pediatrics, Stuart Slavin, M.D., M.Ed to talk about what those “current assumptions” are, and how the high pressure culture of achievement is affecting local youth.
“What we find is profoundly disturbing statistics about what this culture is doing to teenagers,” Slavin said.
"It’s reasonable to have a focus on performance, but we need to be aware of the costs that may occur when there is an excessive focus on performance…. depression rates, anxiety rates, eating disorders, multiple levels, we see dramatic rises over the last ten to twenty years. ”
Pressures on students come from a variety of places, but in many cases, our guests agreed, students are putting pressure on themselves to achieve, sometimes prizing top scores over intellectual growth.
Neithalath, a Clayton High senior admitted, “You sometimes wonder when you’re thinking about it, okay well, I’m doing this tonight and what is that going to get me? I’ll get my homework check tomorrow. And then I’ll have more homework and I’ll get a homework check the next day. And you sort of wonder, where does it all end?
His classmate agreed, but added, “If you’re going to make it through you just have to stop thinking that way and focus on the rewards of education and the knowledge you’re getting. ”
It was a fascinating discussion. Check it out.