The documentary systematically explores the impact school pressure has on kids, their health, their parents and family time, covering the overload from homework, testing and a demand to achieve a pre-ordained standard.
Comments from kids in the movie summed up their experience.
“How do you expect us to learn if we have to achieve?” one student asked.
After giving up on education altogether, another student talked about why “if you don’t try, you can’t fail.”
Another student named the education process a “race to nowhere.”
Educators and doctors interviewed for the film challenge the way schools are funded, with large amounts of cash provided to the richest districts.
“We don’t invest upfront (in education),” one expert said in the film. “But we’re willing to pay the cost in prisons and for welfare.”
Another point challenged how education takes over the lives of young people.
“At what point did it become OK for schools to dictate what kids do with their private time?” the feature-length documentary asks.
Many of the observations drew nods of agreement from the Saranac Lake educators and parents who were watching.
The Parent Faculty Alliance is working toward steps to define goals for education reform in its own community.
With two young children, Sunita Halasz raised an example of peer-to-peer review that works for a consortium of small organic farms in the region.
Her suggestion, which drew loud applause, was that teachers gain credentials from their peers rather than in a top-down government approach.
One poignant comment came from SUNY Plattsburgh professor emeritus Robert L. Arnold, who grew up in Saranac Lake.
“If you get organized, would there be a receptive audience?” he asked the group.
“The message (from the film) is very clear.”