The movie, Race to Nowhere, has brought new attention to education and student motivation. I hope that this film inspires dialogue about what school could become. As Seth Godin says in his 2010 book, Linchpin, Are you Indispensible?, the sign outside school could read, “We teach people to take initiative and become remarkable artists, to question the status quo and to interact with transparency. And our graduates understand that consumption is not the answer to social problems.” I want to work at a school like that! What child does not want to go to a school as Godin describes: “What they should teach in school: Only two things: 1. Solve interesting problems. 2. Lead.” Kierkegaard once said, “We create ourselves by our choices.” Our children and our students are making choices based on our examples. In Terry McMillan’s 2010 sequel to Waiting to Exhale called Getting to Happy, 15 ½-year-old Sparrow tells her mom, “Most of the kids at my school get their meds from their parents’ and grandparents’ medicine cabinet.” We are aware that some children are doing homework until late in the night and taking pills to stay up. How big of a problem is it? Another character, 14-year-old Taylor says, “I looked in your side table and I saw your little pharmacy ….all of [my mom’s] scripts were on display in the medicine cabinet. This is where most of my friends get their stash to sell at school for spending money.” Jason McDonald, an instructional designer, and academic researcher states that “for high school and college there is evidence that the race we’ve entered our kids in is damaging them in important ways.” For college student information, he recommends reading My Freshman Year, the report of an anthropologist who went “native” as a college freshman and recorded her experiences.
A negative toned Newsweek article called “School Reform and Student Motivation” by Robert J. Samuelson from September 06, 2010 claims that “Motivation has weakened because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don’t like school, don’t work hard, and don’t do well. “ Is it simply that kids don’t like school? Are they not motivated? Are they bored? Is it possible that the Race to Nowhere is not motivating but somewhat soul stealing? The photos in this article are from my science summer camp. All of the children were engaged, active learners who run into the classroom to learn. Maybe we have to look at ourselves and see what example do we give. Do we take pills to stay awake at work? to feel less bored? I hope the rising tide of this film helps us to examine what is really going on and find a way to create schools where students run in the door on Monday mornings.
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Lisa Niver Rajna, M.A. Ed. is an accomplished travel agent, blogger, speaker, science teacher and member of the Traveler’s Century Club, a unique travel club limited to travelers who have visited one hundred or more countries. Read More