(I’ll be gone until Monday)
Last year, I posted a piece by Torri Chappell, a teacher and mother from San Anselmo, California, who wrote about some of the success she had had in advocating for school reform.
Two weeks ago, the high school in her community hosted a showing of Race to Nowhere, a documentary film that I’ve written about before. (I’m an adviser and appear in the film.). Torri was bothered by the discussion following the screening and sent the following letter to her local newspaper.
To the Editors
from Torri Chappell
What really matters in the life of a child? What really matters in the life of an adult? What does it mean to be ‘successful’? Happy? These are the questions that I wish adults would honestly ask themselves and more importantly ask their children.
Last Thursday Drake High School hosted a screening of the new documentary, Race to Nowhere by Vicki Abeles. This film bravely and honestly depicts the negative effects of our society’s push to make our children ‘successful’. It is powerful, heart wrenching and thought provoking. I applaud Drake High School for providing this screening to the community, to which hundreds of people of all ages attended.
Unfortunately, the panel of administrators, teachers and students that was held after the film left many of us in the audience with a new layer of questions and concerns. The format was not designed for a dialogue with the audience but questions could be submitted on notecards and a few were directed at panel members. I found many of the responses concerning but the most disturbing and alarming one was this: When the students on the panel were asked to share what part of their life they were giving up to keep up the pace of the schoolwork and activities that are deemed to be the recipe for ‘success’ they said that they give up family time, family responsibilities and sleep. The adults on the panel were silent. There was no response. In the principal’s closing words there was no acknowledgement of this harsh reality that my family and so many families experience daily. Family and health taking the back seat to academic and athletic rigor.
My heart raced and I wanted to scream, AREN’T YOU LISTENING? Our children are giving up the most important things in life and most adults are just silent. Our community protests loudly and effectively when there is a threat to spray pesticides on our food. Pesticides that would hurt our children. Yet it is acceptable for our children to giving up sleep and time with family in the name of ‘being successful’? Our children are hurting NOW yet there is silence and denial.
My family is the most important part of my life. My children’s health and well-being are at the top of my list. The parents I know feel the same way in their heart and now it is time to break the silence and have our actions and voices reflect what our hearts know to be true.
This is a community problem. Not just a student problem or a parent problem or a teacher problem or an administrator problem or a political problem. We have all played a role in the problem and we should all play a role in the solution. Watch the movie trailer, explore the research, talk about it with your kids, friends, teachers, administrators, political representatives. Most importantly, listen to your heart and DO something. The stakes are too high to remain silent.