School, Inc: Race to Nowhere

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You all remember Food, Inc. and what an eye opening film that was: questioning, criticizing, exposing America’s very broken food practices and culture.

And now comes Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture, a new documentary film in screening and pre-distribution, hopefully coming soon to a theater near you. If there’s any way you can get to a screening, do yourself a favor and get to it. If you’re very ambitious, see about scheduling a screening in your area.

I saw such a screening at a community center in Morgan Hill, CA last evening. I didn’t know what to expect. My school teacher wife, Beatrice, told me I might want to go because it’s about how screwed up the education system is in America and it’s all the buzz with teachers just now. I half figured I’d get railroaded, ending up seeing the standard rot that schools need more money, teachers need higher pay (…y’know, ’cause failure is to be rewarded) and generally, a film with an underlying theme that schools exist for the primary sake of teachers, administrators and unions (because they kinda do).

And was I ever wrong because I’d have to say that in my view about 99% of this film was dead right on. Here’s the trailer and let me just say that it doesn’t even begin to signal the wide reaching importance of this film.

So essentially, what’s documented here is that everyone from the federal government to state & local governments to teachers unions to school districts to administrators to teachers and yes, parents have contrived — not conspired, because the "good intentions" thing is definitely present — to royally screw kids up, steal their very childhoods, stress them out to the max and generally do them the double disservice of both wreaking havoc in their lives, and for most of them, not really educating them. It’s all downside, or mostly so.

And it’s a damn shame. As one teacher interviewed in the film explained: kids naturally want to learn, are excited, inquisitive, motivated. Let’s just not take that away. Ring a bell? First, do no harm. And ultimately, the film documents in the words of educators, students and parents alike how great harm is being perpetuated in a systematic fashion, daily, relentlessly. It’s all about performance, productivity, testing and not teaching, all adding up to meaningless "achievement." There’s no depth. There’s ultimately no conceptual understanding. There’s no real critical thinking. There’s no ability to identify and ultimately operate through a series of internally consistent principles. There’s no love of life and of learning. It’s all toil and drudgery, but man oh man is there a lot of it. We do quantity like no other.

America’s education system is a mile wide and an inch deep.

That’s the essential message. That, and that Testing is not Teaching.

After the film we went and sat down to a nice dinner in the ville, and I began to contemplate, and we discussed how this could really impact things. It’s that powerful. The beauty of it is, unlike being addicted to awful "food" as we talk about a lot, who’s addicted to endless and meaningless homework? Who’s addicted to tests that test nothing important? Who’s addicted to athletic programs that aren’t fun anymore and don’t teach the sorts of values that sports for kids were once primarily intended to do? Who’s addicted to high achievement classes that, if failed, send the message to a young student that their life is over? Who’s addicted to an atmosphere where learning through mistakes, trial, error and failure is no longer tolerated?

For worse, America has created an "education" system that’s more suited to the attributes of a zoo than to those of a proper human animal. America is rapidly turning out Zoo Humans, not human individuals.

But the good and bright news is that, individually, it can be changed overnight and parents (and teachers and administrators too) are doing so. While all are working within the system — in many cases very effectively — to change things, there’s something that can be done instantaneously.

  1. Tell your kids you don’t care about them doing their homework assignments.
  2. Don’t ask to see their report cards or inquire about their grades. You  shouldn’t care.
  3. Let them know it’s fine to pursue a different passion per week until they find their true one, and if it doesn’t involve going to a top university, or any university at all, that’s just fine.

You really can’t cheat human psychology and its evolution. If you can ultimately succeed in getting your children to achieve success in the human zoo in some passionless endeavor that merely rewards with lots of dollars, then you’ve achieved no real success at all. Success in life is measured in terms of personal happiness and meaningful achievement in areas an individual is passionate about.

Nothing else counts and everything else, ultimately, is true failure.

Addendum: I just found that has an article on the film. Can’t vouch for it as I haven’t read it yet, but here’s the link.

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  1. This goes on to college as well, I’ve been here long enough to know that my desire to get an education has really gotten in the way of me getting a degree

  2. David Csonka says:

    I recognize the problem and feel the results from it vividly, having been in the education system in the U.S. for approximately 21 years, up through Grad school. My parents are/were both teachers and also understand the problem from the inside. I hope the documentary comes up with some meaningful solutions, because it certainly isn’t going to be an easy thing to fix.

    I suppose, at the least it will be good to raise awareness about the problems with the system. Unfortunately, it seems that much of America has a deep sense of disgust for teachers in general. They seem to assume that most teachers are inept and are bent on serving their own interests. As the son of two wonderful and well respected teachers (even having taken a class with them) I find the attitude to be wholly unhelpful and largely off-base. At the worst, teachers are just trying to survive in a system in which OUR elected officials have constructed.

    If there is a problem with the system, I think it lies primarily on the shoulders of the parents/citizens who either through lack of interest or the denial of responsibility have not kept control of such an important institution; the education of our future.

  3. Your advice was exactly what my parents did. I had been homeschooled in elementary and middle school, so when I got to high school I didn’t really see the point of doing the busy work I was assigned, test prep, or any of that bullshit. And I didn’t…and my parents didn’t do anything about it. So yeah…I got some pretty bad grades and basically failed math entirely. I also did really well in things I liked and ended up with good standardized test scores and a bunch of 5s on AP tests. But it was demoralizing going into the college application process because my friends from those AP classes were going to Harvard or Yale….while I didn’t exactly qualify with my terrible GPA.

    I guess those things don’t really matter, but to me they were a huge blow. I did get into the best state school, but once there I proceeded to pretty much beat myself into playing the system so I wouldn’t be denied opportunities again. I hated my school- I had a few good professors, but mostly it was a diploma mill filled with drunks getting stupid degrees that would be less less useful than their fraternity connections.

    I graduated with honors- but too burned out to continue in academia. Having sat in on Ivy League classes I can honestly say I probably would have been happier and more engaged in such schools. I guess there are some small private colleges like St. Johns that are doing some interesting things, but I have a friend who is 30, underemployed, and still is $40,000 in debt to that place.

    I love studying and would love to learn more about anthropology or nutrition, but the whole system from top to bottom is so soul crushing that I don’t think it’s worth it anymore.

    • David Csonka says:

      That’s one of the big problems I see. If you don’t play the “Game” you risk losing out on opportunities. I suppose that is why most parents are still buying into the process even if they understand the faults. They don’t want to fail their children.

      • Swintah says:

        There’s always another opportunity. They’re like rain, you may have a dry spell, but there’s always more.

  4. I agree that kids today are completely and totally unprepared for life when they get out of high school–or heck, even when they get out of college! I was homeschooled for several years and always planned on homeschooling my kids. Now that I have two children, we are unschooling instead. There will be no grades in my home, no homework, no subjects, no lesson plans, no hour-by-hour plan for what they will learn and when they will learn it.

    Life *is* school. But of course most of us don’t realize this because we’ve all been told we have to do schoolwork to learn anything. Most of us grew up that way. I doubted it myself at first. But children have an enormous capability to learn about the world around them, and a great sense of curiousity to boot. With a little guidance they can learn far more than they would going to school. I had to believe it to see it but I certainly do believe it now.

  5. My parents stopped checking my homework and report cards during high school as well. I looked at it as a free pass to slack off actually, and it wasn’t until grade 12 when I was thinking “I’d really like to go to this school” that I realized I didn’t meet certain prerequisites.

    That can suck hard. Unfortunately following your passions, also means you have to have good grades in fields you’re not even interested in.

  6. chris says:

    Holy Cow Richard. That trailer represents more of the same drivel that we’ve been hearing for years. I’ve actually been a high school teacher, university lecturer and for the past thirteen years I’ve been a community college instructor.

    The problem is this myth/meme that everyone has the right to, and capacity for, a college education. Vocational-tract education was gutted in the seventies because of the socio-economic and ethnic/racial disparity that occurred when students were divided into vocational and university tracts based on demonstrated abilities. The “social-justice” gestapo just would not have it and the American educational system has been disintegrating ever since.

    We are wasting serious money and jeopardizing too many students’ future contentment by requiring that they pass Algebra II at the expense of developing practical, vocational skills. Take everyone of those kids that is whining about high G, abstract tasks and teach them plumbing, mechanics, carpentry, tailoring, etc. (Why? Because my plumber, my mechanic, my fix-it man, and my tailor are all foreign born and foreign trained.)

    You should sit in on the faculty lounge conversations at a California community college. Most faculty soon realize that it is an insane waste of taxpayer money and students’ time to be teaching Shakespeare, mid-century Modernism and ethnic studies to students who ultimately drop out after four or five years of tax-payer subsidies only to end up working as service sector drones. This is sad and unnecessary. Better to be a well paid mechanic with some benefits than a middle aged Payless Shoesource clerk jonesing for another Zoloft.

    Finally, I’m of an age that allowed me to witness, via my own K-12 experience, the different pedagogical approaches of those teachers who were educated in either a pre or post sixties environment. In other words I had old-school WWII vets as teachers as well as hippy radicals. The flower children were of course, from the kids’ point of view, highly preferred, but everyone knew that they learned more from the no non-sense, no bull shit Depression era teachers who took the time to iron their clothes. I feel so sorry for American students today.

    Neither one of my grandfathers finished high school because they had to work on the family farm. Their ability to read and reason were fundamentally greater than 95% of the HS graduates I have in my college classes. Many high school graduates (in California at least) are innumerate and only functionally literate, therefore this follow-your-bliss, fuck grades strategy is just dumb, dumb, DUMB.

    That trailer was more neo-sixties non-sense.

    • wrkn365 says:


    • Johnny B. Goode says:

      Wow, this is really insightful and makes sense. This man needs his own blog.

    • Chris
      The problem is this myth/meme that everyone has the right to, and capacity for, a college education

      I absolutely agree. Watch the trailer again, it turns out you actually agree with one of the main points of the trailer. Ask yourself why this myth/meme persists? Is it not because we overvalue achievement and we are afraid of hurting others feelings by telling them they don’t have the capacity for achievement? If income/achievement were not the currency for success/status, then the myth would die because no one would care.

      • You are absolutely right, In, that point was addressed strongly in the actual film. Not everyone needs to go to college and many would better served in some sort of vocational training, apprenticeship, etc.

      • Hillary says:

        Richard, I totally agree with you here, except I think we are kidding ourselves if we think this would work in the USA. I went to school in Austria as a teenager and they do have a vocational system. I though it was wonderful. But the reason Austrian can pull it off is because it is still basically a homogeneous society. Most of the people who live there are ethnic Austrians. The biggest minority (the Turks) almost always wind up in the vocational programs. Where I went in the Gymnasium there was ONE Turkish kid. See, the Austrians don’t care. To them, studying at the University is a choice you can make if you have the abilities, otherwise, it’s perfectly acceptable to become a plumber.

        We have to be realistic about this and admit one thing: if we did this in the USA, there would be a division amongst ethnic and racial lines. There already is in almost every area of education. We can argue WHY that is, but it won’t change the reality. Personally, I don’t get what is wrong with a vocational education and career. But other people do. For some reason, it’s shameful to become a carpenter. It’s shameful to not be an academic person. I wish we could do this here because it really would benefit the people everyone says it would harm.

        So minority kids from the inner-city get a basic academic education and then learn an actual trade. They are more likely to do this than rich white kids from the suburbs. This would be a very, very, very bad thing to all the people in charge. This would be worse than having those same kids just drop out and life off welfare the rest of their lives, or work at crappy minimum wage jobs.

        Until we change our attitude about this, I am sorry but a vocational system in the US would never, ever work.

    • Well, I see alternative education (Montessori and Waldorf ugh… well some Waldorf schools) work wonders. Happy kids enjoying school and getting great prep for university. But I guess it’s all just hippy nonsense.

  7. Swintah says:

    I had a bad patch where I didn’t meet prerequisites for the school I wanted to attend (local state university). I went to a community college for 2 semesters, was suddenly a “transfer student”, and qualified. I transferred to the least difficult major, completed another semester, and transferred to the major I originally wanted. I graduated with the degree I wanted.

    If people could see beyond the life script, and game the system in their favor a bit, I think they would get a lot more out of their educational experience.

  8. JP @ Primal Journal says:

    Great post. In a way, it could be summed up with the song ”The wall” by Pink Floyd.

    ”Teachers leave them kids alone ”.

    My parents wanted me to succeed but they were never hard on me. They stressed the importance of making the right choices but they also let me be a kid. They told me to play outside and they made sure I played some sports (those I wanted to participate in).

    When I got in College, it was harder for me. To graduate, I had to force myself to study things I hated. Why would anyone want to study something they hate? In classes I liked, I was often the top student. In classes I hated, I was average or below average.

    I believe that our education system is not optimal because it’s more about producing model citizens than learning.

    Here is a good example :

    My 8 years old sister decided to climb some trees during the recess. Now, to me, that’s totally normal and I would even encourage it. Let the kids be kids. The teachers, however, did not think it was such a great idea. They phoned my mother to tell her how her kid is not behaving and that she should do something about it or the school would punish her.

    • “Why would anyone want to study something they hate?” They wouldnt. Unfortunatley we do not live in Utopia. We all have to do things we hate. Hopefully overall we are happy, but to say we should only do things that feel good and we love is woefully naive.

    • David Csonka says:

      Re: subjects you hate – the purpose is to weed out people who are not as dedicated to the subject, since there are far too many entrees into the program than would be usable in the field.

      Re: misbehaving – I imagine the school does not want to deal with the liabilities of the child falling from the tree. No doubt many parents would sue the school district if their child fell and was hurt. Blame the legal system which allows frivolous law suits.

      • It’s not really about subjects people hate. Many Gen Ed classes in college are an obvious huge waste of time created to serve the interests of rent-seeking professors. Some choice ones at my school were “life with animals” (served the science gen ed), “natural disasters” (physical science…mostly watched videos of tornados), “Asian pop culture” (anime), “into to popular television,” etc. Up to 800 people in each class- total lack of intellectual rigor or challenge. The college system is a wreck.

      • JP @ Primal Journal says:

        Nicely said Melissa.

        I had to take a class that showed us how to take notes when you read a paper. Ain’t it nice…

  9. Canuckmom says:

    You’d be neglectful to not prepare kids for the context and environment that they grow up and live in as young adults. If you live in a competitive and capitalistic society where there are pressures of materialism and the North American dream lifestyle, you should offer your children the tools to be able to grasp what they are socialized to desire, to some extent. Sorry, but I live in a city where there is an enormous struggle to find well-paying jobs in order to buy a house (or even pay rent), feed your family, take the odd vacation. I’d be doing a terrible disservice to my children by not preparing them for their current realities and only catering to whimsy and imagination 100%, with no benchmarks for success or motivation. The lifestyle and mindset that is touted here in this article is akin to living off the grid or in prehistoric times where just being able to ‘think’ is enough. It does go beyond that. True, I do think that some materials are anachronistic and should be thrown out to make way for new thought, but that does not rationalize the arguments of the naysayers of ‘higher education’.

    Structure, competition and normative education are not evil things at early ages.

    • The hilarious thing is that many of my high school friends who lived under pressure from their parents, went to test prep, and then went to expensive colleges are now unemployed or underemployed. Maybe that English degree from Oberlin wasn’t such a hot choice…

      I’m employed and started my own business when I was 23. Guess not this “stone age” stuff ain’t so bad…

      • Canuckmom says:

        Yeah, that’s sure ‘hilarious’. So parents who invest in their kids with the far-reaching goal of them being able to carve out a decent life as adults is ‘hilarious’. Right. You’re the exception to the norm. 9 times out of 10 it’s the other way around, and over a lifetime, non-college grads make WAY less than college grads. Most adults pumping your gas or doing the blue collar thing are not college educated. But it’s not to turn into the Grand Fight over who makes the most, it’s about schooling kids so that they can survive in a horribly materialistic, competitive and capitalist world.

        …and you’re telling me that you won’t bother to tell YOUR kids to do homework or talk to them about higher education? Give me a break.

      • Canuckmom
        Most adults pumping your gas or doing the blue collar thing are not college educated. But it’s not to turn into the Grand Fight over who makes the most, it’s about schooling kids so that they can survive in a horribly materialistic, competitive and capitalist world.

        Shouldn’t we be criticizing and trying to change such a culture as ours? Why does it need to be this way? I agree that preparing kids for the environment that they would make their way in is important, but I disagree on the need for any individual to play the game beyond a certain point. One of the virtues of our culture is its freedom. Parents are free to emphasize learning over grades, quality work over quantity, provide ample free time to explore, etc, etc. I’m skeptical that this would make children less capable of earning a living as an adult. I think ability is largely innately determined and most of the frantic activities they have children in are largely meaningless toil.

      • You are so right. Hours spent on HW…are they correlated with working a “good” job and doing well in the capitalist system? IQ certainly is.

      • “…and you’re telling me that you won’t bother to tell YOUR kids to do homework or talk to them about higher education? Give me a break.”

        Hahaha. Of course not. My kids aren’t going to school (unless I can find a school that doesn’t give homework). I’m not that dumb.

        Homework is a joke. Children give 7am to 3-4PM to schools and they always ask for more.

      • Canuckmom says:

        Homework is about reinforcement. You know, practising a skill/information so it sticks…creating neural pathways…that sort of ‘nonsense’. Why bother practising piano? I mean, how dumb is that?

        Life is about balance. School is as effective as parental involvement, investment and interest in their children.

        And ahh…you’re ‘homeschooling’. We give those kids a wide berth in the activities we do…some of the most self-centred, maladjusted, ‘mommy thinks you’re so awesome!!’ kiddos around. Good luck with that – my Starbucks needs some new middle-aged baristas (…but as long as they’re happy’!)

      • I take it you were homeschooled, then?

  10. Shayne L. says:

    I knew school was bullshit when, in Grades 10 and 11, my English teacher would spend the first half of every class reading a Stephen King novel aloud to us students. Then, if you needed help after school, you had to be quick because she had to get home to watch The Young and the Restless (it aired at 4:30pm where I lived)!

  11. I love your blog, but this is terrible advice.

    “Tell your kids you don’t care about them doing their homework assignments.” – Newsflash: most teenagers don’t listen to their teachers during class. This is less a reflection of a given teacher’s teaching abilities and more a reflection of teens being teens. There’s a growing body of research that suggests teenager’s brains are actaully hardwired to make them more disorganised and susceptible to distraction than older people:

    Homework (if properly enforced by that age-old biological impulse called “parenting”), forces kids to aquire at least a cursory understanding of the subject matter – for me, this is certainly better than nothing. I think this degree of supervision becomes even more essential in today’s world of never-ending distractions.

    “Don’t ask to see their report cards or inquire about their grades. You shouldn’t care.” – This is almost borderline offensive. Parents should certainly care what grades their children are making in school (provided they are in a public or private school – homeschooling is a different story). Why does it matter that the testing/grade system in America’s education system is inherently flawed if that system still plays a crucial role in determining the future quality of life of your child? I’d love to see the system improved as much as everyone else surely does, but your advice here seems better suited for a soma-junkie parent living in some utopian alternate reality (and it sure doesn’t help that this advice is coming from a poo-less, barefoot-running, primal-eating, well-studied college grad)

    • You should read Alfie Kohn on this topic. He is an educator, (what ever the heck that is) and he has plenty of intelligent writings on the topics of homework, grades, etc.
      I think he is

      • Excellent.



        Two Lectures by Alfie Kohn

        In a pair of lively and thought-provoking presentations, Alfie Kohn makes a compelling case that two traditional features of schooling — grades and homework — are not only unnecessary but actually undermine students’ interest in learning.

        Research consistently finds that giving students letter or number grades leads them to think less deeply, avoid challenging tasks, and become less enthusiastic about whatever they’re learning – and that’s true for those who get A’s as well as D’s. Similarly, making children work what amounts to a second shift after having spent all day in school not only proves frustrating but also turns learning into a chore. Surprisingly, claims that homework enhances understanding or promotes better work habits are contradicted by both research and experience.

        Rather than trying to tweak the details of how students are graded, or how much (or even what kind of) homework they’re assigned, Kohn argues that we need to ask whether the practices themselves really make sense.

        Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on education, parenting, and human behavior. His 11 books include PUNISHED BY REWARDS (1993), THE SCHOOLS OUR CHILDREN DESERVE (1999), and THE HOMEWORK MYTH (2006). Time magazine has described him as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.”

      • Sonagi says:

        Letter grades are meaningless. Our elementary school’s report card lists standards for each subject and uses the following codes: MS (mastered standard), LS (learning standard), and AC (area of concern). Parents want to know how their children are progressing, and even if NCLB gets tweaked, accountability is here to stay. Children, too, want and need feedback. Sometimes we know whether we’ve mastered something or not, and sometimes we need confirmation or revision.

        Like Chris, I am leery of us repeating mistakes from the sixties. My high school class was the last to graduate under liberalized, minimal graduation requirements. When I did my freshman schedule in the 8th grade, I decided not to take science because I didn’t like it. Halfway through my freshman year, a counselor warned me that 9th grade science was a prerequisite for biology, chemistry, and physics in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. Without at least three years of high school science, I would never get admitted to any university in my state. Surprisingly, nobody caught this mistake sooner, despite the fact that I was in the advanced academic track in middle school. Fortunately, the 9th grade science teacher agreed to tutor me after school to get me caught up while I took the second semester with everyone else.

        Rather than swing the pendulum back and forth, let’s introduce reforms on a small-scale, tweak them if necessary, and expand them if successful. My elementary school is the pilot school for new programs in our district. We experiment with a new program, and if it works, we train teachers at other schools.

      • And wow, check out these short video clips about 1:30 each.

        I particularly like the last one.

      • Alfie Kohn does an excellent job summarizing some of the flaws inherit to our educational system. Like I said before, I’d love to see the system improved as much anyone else. But in my opinion, the solution to the problem is not to eschew homework and grades all together, especially if this is the system your children are expected to maneuver through in order to establish a desired quality of life. I’ll repeat again what I said above about grades: Why does it matter that the testing/grade system in America’s education system is inherently flawed if that system still plays a crucial role in determining the future quality of life of your child?

        I’m 25. During my childhood and teenage years, my parents motivated me to do my homework (of course I hated it and often complained). Like most kids, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up, and despite constant encouragement from my mother (who was a school counselor) I had no interest in even considering my options. Throughout high school, homework and studying for tests became something to be suffered through so that I could go out and get into trouble with my friends. When senior year came around, I had the grades it took to get into a good university and decided to major in Aerospace Engineering since it sounded pretty interesting and I had always been obsessed with space.

        It wasn’t until college that I actually realized what I wanted to do with my life and that was enough to motivate myself through the rest of school and get hired at NASA after graduating. I love the work I do. In retrospect, its hard for me to see myself getting to where I am today without the motivation (ass-kicking) my parents gave me during high school to keep my grades up. At the time, I just didn’t give a damn. I agree 100% that the system is flawed and incredibly frustrating, but you might be inadvertently boxing your kids in if you don’t put an emphasis on good grades. By emphasizing grades and motivating them to do homework, you’re giving them the opportunity to do something in the future that they don’t even know they love yet.

      • If the schools had actually worked for their customer (you) instead of the other way around you could have put them to work from K onward satisfying your every whim to learn about your space obsession.

        The prerequisites would have taken care of themselves along the way, out of your desire to learn more and more about what you were passionate and obsessed about.

        Glad it worked out for you in spite of all the torturous, unnecessary toil along the way. I don’t think that’ altogether common.

    • I spent my teenage years studying hard, with almost complete control over how and when I did my “schoolwork.” At the end of it, I spent a year taking SAT IIs (in addition to the SAT I, the ACT, and eventually–as an afterthought–the GED). I matriculated at the University of Georgia, and have not looked back since. I do not buy the argument that teenagers are naturally the bored, stupid rebels that many people remember from high school. With motivation and the freedom to make their own way (wherever that leads, whether to a trade or the ivory tower, sciences or humanities), they can learn complex skills as quickly and as thoroughly as your average adult.

      The problem is one of values. Our old American myths are being uprooted, leaving our kids no compelling reason to serve as “obedient cogs” in the zookeepers’ machine. The American Dream no longer delivers, folks: happiness cannot be guaranteed by degrees, technology, money, or any kind of “progress” that comes from a society more committed to perpetuating itself (and the power structures it has created) than evolving to meet new challenges. And I think it is only a matter of time before non-Americans (including all the hardworking foreigners) learn that they have bought into a lie. What happens when they are sick and the doctor, who has studied hard and learned all the wrong things (or all the right things about a fatal condition our workers have given themselves by working so hard to be good cogs that they forgot how to be human) cannot cure them, no matter how much they pay? What happens when Social Security dies? When the economy finally tanks for good and the dollar is worthless? When fossil fuels run out? When nuclear war wipes out half the planet? We think that the answer to all of these problems is more technology, more money, more frenzied obedience offered up to righteous leaders who know so much more than we do, but so far this approach has been a disaster. In the end, I think we need to take a step back and re-evaluate what we do and why. Maybe we should worry more about making individual lives better, starting with our own, and less about “saving the world”. Maybe we should redefine happiness and direct our individual efforts toward tinkering with adaptable, sustainable forms of human culture that are not based on the kind of totalitarian dominance that agricultural states have practiced ever since they appeared on the world scene.

      Maybe we need less degrees, less technology, less “knowledge” — and more willingness to live naked and vulnerable in a wilderness where we don’t get to play God with other people’s lives.

  12. I hate how everyone talks about the utility of education and not the morality. Even if it were hugely beneficial, locking kids in a classroom 8 hours a day and forcing them to abide by someone else’s standards is a sick, inhumane, vile, sadistic practice.

    • chris says:

      What do you do for a living Chaohinon?

      • working part-time in fast-food, studying to become a chef


      • chris says:

        Why do you think so many H1-Bs go to India and so few US H1-Bs go to the United Kingdom?

      • Johnny B. Goode says:

        Great point!

      • chris says:

        The US and UK import doctors, engineers, bio-chemists, etc from India because of the old school (literally “old school”) formal, rigid, strict British educational system which survives to this day in India. The very same “oppressive” system that Britain and the rest of the Anglosphere abandoned as a result of the 1960s “peoples” revolution. Can’t you see the sad irony?

        Education has been moving in the direction your ilk desires for the past 40 years. (e.g. self-esteem building/exploration ahead of route knowledge acquisition) You’ve probably never had access to effective, comprehensive, formal education. We’re on the fast track to Idiocracy and it’s not because schools are too rigid it’s because they’ve gone soft-headed while having to maintain high goals. Students today “fail” because we have yesterday’s high standards combined with today’s loosey-goosey methodologies.

        The last thing we should do as a society is to encourage the average American teen-ager to “do your own thing”. But that’s what we’re doing and it’s the reason your nurse has an accent while your coffee jockey does not.

      • Chris, as someone who regularly watches products of that “wonderful” oppressive school system in India at work, I can vouch for one thing. They aren’t being hired in the US because they’re such better doctors than we are. They’re hired because a lot of hospitals and companies wanted to hire CHEAP.

        And to top it off:

    • so you lock yourselves in a fast-food joint for 4 hours a day and force yourself to abide by your manager’s standards? does that make you a masochist?

      • There are lots of things that adults are allowed to do that we wouldn’t subject kids to. Chao and I CHOSE to spend our days working. Kids don’t. We are also already developed- kids aren’t, and play is a vital component of childhood development.

      • Did you really choose to spend your days working? Or were you forced to work in order to feed, clothe, and shelter yourself? It’s not much of a choice when there’s a gun pointed at your head.

      • Yes. I definitely am privileged in that I could chose to go live with my family and work for a few hours a day, but I work because I chose to.

      • Rob K says:

        No one is pointing a gun at her head and forcing her. She’s free to sit in a ditch and starve to death, if she chooses.

      • I think you missed my point. My point was that forcing kids to go to school is no less “sadistic” than subjecting yourself to work is “masochistic” – neither may be much fun, but they are both important endeavors in our society.

        Also – “hrmm….should I stay home today or go make money to feed my family” – this doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me.

      • chris says:

        I’d argue that most, not all, older children and adolescents thrive when there is clear and consistent structure for a good part of the day. This is especially true when we consider the left half of the bell curve.

        Go and teach at a low performing junior high and then explain to me how more “play” is going to help these kids survive, much less thrive, in 21st century America.

      • Johnny B. Goode says:

        chef Chaohinon won’t have a good answer for that – jon makes an excellent point.

      • I won’t pretend to like my job, but I’m allowed to leave whenever I want (although that would be a bad idea right now). I’m motivated entirely by self interest.

        A child on the other hand, has NO choices, and is NOT allowed to leave. That very basic fact is at the root of all other problems associated with education. It’s slavery.

      • chris says:

        So you choose to be a cog in the wheel of corporate greed and disease. Nice.

      • Oh it would be wonderful if I didn’t have rent to pay, but…I do. To some extent I’m devoid of choices, but working within that framework allows me just enough freedom to work towards a better life, as I’m doing.

        In the realm of public education, however, students are denied the right to allocate their time preferences as they see fit. And then when the system fails them, you and Jon proceed to blame the victims. It’s the equivalent of throwing someone down a well and then blaming them for starving.

      • chris says:

        No, I do believe that the system is failing many/most children. It is failing because of the myth that all children are capable of and interested in university level course work. (Reread your President’s last policy speech on education.)

        Practical workforce skills are just not emphasized. THAT is the great tragedy because young Americans who could have perused a perfectly respectable vocational trade, instead end up fucking around and flunking out of four or five years of community college, at GREAT cost to the tax payer. They waste their time (and that generous subsidy) signing up for and dropping out of a whole host of classes that do little to prepare them for work or life.

        Not to mention that the serious student, the one capable of showing up on time, concentrating for long periods of time, the one who is genuinely interested in learning for learning sake is seriously short changed by the mis-spent resources wasted on the others.

        You along with Melissa seem to be arguing that you were “capable of allocating time preferences” as children. Well there’s a guy at the convalescent hospital where my wife works who is 96, smokes a pack a day, and loves toast and jam. Whoopty doo!

      • Sonagi says:

        Choices, choices.

        First of all, most of the world’s people do not have luxury of choosing what kind of work they want to do and how much time they wish to spend doing it. You are an exception, not a rule. Second, school children do have some choices during the school day. Giving children limited choices is a fundamental best practice in education. Life is not free. People everywhere must toil for food, clothing, shelter, and safety. Giving children freedom to explore whatever they want all day long sets up an unsustainable expectation.

      • You’re viewing it in the wrong direction. It’s not that they need to be GIVEN choices, it’s that they need to NOT BE DENIED choices.

      • Sonagi says:

        In real life, we are denied choices or at least, risk negative consequences. Completely insulating children from a fundamental reality does them no favor.

      • Don’t compare learning in a classroom to slavery. Most parents work for a living. When they aren’t home they send their kids to school to learn instead of leaving them home alone. The kid learns about history, English, math, science, etc…

        You can argue that the way those subjects are taught could be done better however.

        And to point out, I’ve had plenty of choices in school to leave. I’ve skipped on class, or instead of paying attention to the teacher drew doodles on my desk all day. I’ve also dealt with the consequences, just as you would at work.

        If school is slavery, then it’s the easiest, most fun-filled, hang out with your friends all day slavery there is.

  13. How is going to school “sick, inhumane, vile and sadistic.” Everyone I know who used to complain about school is wishing they could be back in that environment over whatever job they’re currently working.

    When you’ve lifted boxes full of meat, sawed wood to make furniture, cleaned out drains for 8-10 hours a day, you have a better perspective on things. I for one wish I could go back to high school and make better use of my time, study hard, and work part-time and save up some money.

  14. Dave from Hawaii says:

    Folks….schools in America are doing precisely what they were designed to do – dumb down the masses to create human resources for corporation wage slaves, and debt slaves enslaved by the consumerist materialism mentality inculcated by thousands of hours of television, radio and print ad influence.

    Here are two books for free, online that tell the entire story:

    The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America

    The Underground History of American Education

    The author of that last book, John Taylor Gatto, was an award winning teacher for the NY Public School system in 1991. has been printing several of his shorter articles lately as well – for those who don’t want to read full length, these two well researched and documented – but extensive – books, two of his articles will suffice to summarize what I’m quite positive this film is about:

    The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher

    Why Schools Don’t Educate

    Those of us that see the light with regards to dietary knowledge, can start to connect the dots here: understand that the way in which the mass media-pharmaceutical-government-agri-business corporation-conglomerate purposely disseminate misinformation so as to make the populace believe that a diet that makes them fat, sickly and unhealthy, and hooked on their processed food products and pharmaceutical products, all depend upon this system of “education” to provide the consumers and human resources to set up this racket for their profit at the expense of the masses health and life span.

    • jon w says:

      not to mention that turning over our kids for two meals a day helps them set the stage physiologically for a lifetime of addiction and medical neediness.

  15. Seems like everyone here likes to link to some site that supports their views. So let me point to something 180 degrees to what you know about education:

    Also google: Sudbury Valley School

    • I’m in the woods right now with a rare moment of connectivity. I’ll address some of the other comments tomorror but in the meantime am glad someone brought up Sudsbury Schools.

      Have been a fan for many years. I was originally made aware by David Friedman , son of Milton who sent at least one of his kids there.

  16. Phil Johnston says:

    Hi Richard, so glad you’re posting about this topic. I’m absolutely 100% in agreement with the tone of this doc and I can only hope it reaches the largest possible audience.
    If I understand correctly you’re a Libertarian? Perhaps you’re already aware of this amazing podcast but, if not, please give it a listen! Invaluable thoughts from a former school teacher who is unabashed about the idea that if we truly love our children we must dissolve these “prisons” for kids.

    • Hey Phil. “tone” is a decent description. No way I could adequately relay what I saw over almost two hours in a short post. So, explicit attempt was to set radical bait. That worked well.

      I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

  17. Matthew Strebe says:

    I think the message that “school should be about learning, not drudgery” is a good one, but that your advice decidedly is not (if you want to go to college and become any kind of professional. Otherwise it is fine):

    ” 1. Tell your kids you don’t care about them doing their homework assignments.
    2. Don’t ask to see their report cards or inquire about their grades. You shouldn’t care.
    3. Let them know it’s fine to pursue a different passion per week until they find their true one, and if it doesn’t involve going to a top university, or any university at all, that’s just fine.

    As a recent high school graduate, I am acutely aware of the outcome of that advice. No matter how you hack it, the entire education system from the top down is dominated by performance checks, i.e. grades, and if your grades are sub-par so is the next institution you end up at. I had an SAT score of 2200 but some abysmal grades in freshman year, which resulted in me receiving denial after denial from every establishment save UC Santa Cruz. Which is nothing but a cesspit going by the assurances of former students, who left for private institutions because they could actually receive any form of education there.

    I am certainly quite glad that this film does not take some rarefied air divorced from the students or the people that teach them, and their mutual concerns, but we should not de-emphasize hard work; it should complement deep learning and critical thinking. Life is ultimately a competition between individuals for that top job, and students should never forget that they need to be better than anyone else if they want a job better than anything else.

  18. And for those who continue to cry about how wonderful compulsory education is, check this out:

    We’re stuck in a classroom 7 hours a day, 35 hours a week, roughly 190 days a year.

    190 days * 7 hours * minimum wage (say $7.25) * 3 years (let’s assume you can’t work until sophomore year) = a $30,922 (before taxes) nest egg each student could have with which to either venture out into the world, fund educational efforts, or help support a struggling family. And that’s not even counting the summer months or weekends, or any raises you might receive during those 3 years.

    And only working 35 hours a week leaves you PLENTY of time to study whatever subjects you want and test out. We should all know by now that the pacing of schoolwork is artificially slowed down. Average thinkers can easily learn the material in a fraction of the time.

    I’d never argue that education as a whole is worthless, but what is education? Does education HAVE to involve being locked in prison for 12 years of your life? If you believe it does, then I have nothing to say to you, other than I hope someone chops off your balls so you can’t hand more kids over to the system that’s just going to ruin their minds.

    • The last thing I would want to do while going to school is also work. Replacing “slavery” with slavery is stupid. You really have this unnecessary hate towards the schooling system. You can’t simply take kids out of school and expect that they’ll do fine in this world where having a degree and prerequisites matter. Unless of course you home-school them, which I’m fine with doing.

      Unless the entire system is reworked, then it’s just a stupid idea. I frankly would rather have us live in a resource based economy where everyone is well fed and lives in superb living conditions. Burning my money and not working isn’t going to make that economy come to fruition. It’s going to leave me broke while everyone else continues working.

      The system needs to change before we start telling people to take their kids out of school. It could fuck up their future.

      And I don’t know a man alive that would wish castration on anyone. I mean a vasectomy which isn’t so great, but a little less evil/I want to kill you. Not that you were talking to me I hope

  19. Simon says:

    Great post Richard.

    As Dave from Hawaii argues you need to look at the writings of John Taylor Gatto. Gatto argues that we confuse schooling with education and that school’s ideological underpinnings arise from the 19th Century’s need for a compliant and unthinking workforce where students are separated into age, ability and told that there is only one right way.

    Real education is self-directed – it’s how we’ve evolved naturally. We are natural learners and when we impose abstract and meaningless subjects onto students that are removed from their natural contexts it’s no wonder that they are not motivated to learn. We force-feed students on a curriculum that is increasingly irrelevant.

    Sir Ken Robinson argues that school’s do not prepare our children for the future because none of us knows what the jobs of the next 20-30 years will be. Adaptability, creativity and resilience are needed.

    Chris mistakenly argues that the education systems of India are superior to those of the UK, however the majority of those subjects are mathematical in nature – a subject suited to rote-learning notably despised by famous mathematician’s such as Paul Erdos, however, higher mathematics require creativity and hypothesising that is not fostered by antiquated methods. India also has one of the largest populations on the Earth, and as such would have a greater pool of talent to choose from therefore leaving a surplus of mathematically trained specialists who look for better paying work in First World countries. Also, India’s preeminence in mathematics is due to the fact that they have a national prize for mathematics and performance in this esteemed in their continent, much like Russia, China and America have a vast pool of talent to choose from with the Olympics and have set up specialist training camps for sports so that they consequently perform better in the medals than other countries as they have a wider pool of talent to choose from.

    Look at Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Bertrand Russell, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, J. Graig Venter and Richard Branson all school/college drop-outs, or minimally schooled who succeeded in spite of school.

    Pirsig in ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ argues that the knowledge of the institute-trained mechanic is woefully poor compared to the mechanic who learns by discovery. Such knowledge that comes from experience and which is stoked by the desire to learn will triumph over any institutionalised learning as it gives one the tools necessary to be a life-long learner: resilience, adaptability and an open-mind.

    The problems of the 21st Century are not going to be answered by what we already know, but on the unknowns. As Nicholas Nassim Taleb argues in ‘The Black Swan’ human’s are notorious for thinking that just because things go swimmingly for years, decades and centuries it doesn’t mean that one day we will wake up, like the turkey, to find ourselves fattened for the slaughterhouse. History moves, as Taleb argues “from fracture to fracture”, and our belief in an education system that ceases to respond to such a challenge leaves America and the Uk notoriously weak to the rise of China, India and Southern America in the coming century.

    • chris says:

      Sir, have you ever taught a group of students with a wide range of capabilities? Yes, some do exceedingly well within the context of an open, modular learning environment. Most though need structure and repetition in order to assimilate subject matter. Structure and repetition are indeed torture for those capable of creative, abstract thinking. Torture! Minimize route learning (as we have done), which worked for our grandparents, who put a man on the moon with the equivalent of a calculator watch, and you end up with 19 year olds who don’t know or care about the moon landing, much less mathematics.

      All of your examples were highly, innately intelligent individuals. Try facilitating learning for the other 98% of the population.

    • Simon, thanks for so nicely laying out most of the essence of what I was trying to get at in this post.

  20. ToddBS says:

    I hope the actual film gets a little more involved in the causes and solutions. Going strictly by the trailer I’m not seeing anything different than the scores of other teenage angst documentaries that have been made over the years.

    I really do feel the entire system isn’t working, and my mother being a teacher I see that it isn’t. I just hope this film helps get a point across to others who may not see this, like Food Inc. did for a lot of people.

  21. John Campbell says:

    Thanks for this Richard – looks worth checking out for sure.

    My take on all this is that humans are basically smart – if not we would not have survived as a species and most of the humans here now came from other smart humans who won the survival game.

    But governments break most things and make them anything but smart. Examples are legion, but education definitely seems broken to me. And the number one tragedy is that the education system we have today makes many, if not most, kids today feel stupid. Most kids are taught to hate learning and to devalue any education.

    We can only hope that many of us are waking up to the poison of big government. We need a revolution.

  22. Amen brother! Race to Nowhere – that sums up about 90% of modern human activity. I’m glad to see this post as it points to the root of so many of our problems and touches on so many important issues. Pathology is soo often the result of people cutting themselves off from their nature. Here are just a few of the things that were running through my head as I read/watched this:

    1.) I love that the video brought up redefining what success means. We are indeed primates and that means we are very status conscious. Equating success with income and other rather shallow markers does not always bring out the best in humans.

    2.) As a corollary, # 1 makes it politically incorrect to bring up other very important issues. Most obviously that school outcomes are largely determined by innate mental capacity. This is only offensive if you view success/status in terms of achievement and economic productivity.

    3.) As a further corollary, this obsession with economics appears to be the ideology of our current elites. The results thus far have been disastrous, from military meddling in the middle east, to exploitation of the third world, to opening the vast swaths of illegal immigrants, and on and on.

    4.) Most people don’t realize the degree that work has been automated made more efficient. Further it is pretty clear that a lot of consumption is sheer waste and frivolity. I would bet that the majority of the adult population of western countries could sit on their asses all day and enjoy close to the same standard of living and there would still be a surplus of labor if the right changes were made. The 8+ hour workday is a (wasteful) cultural construct, not a necessity.

    5.) I don’t claim to have a better alternative to the current political/economic/cultural system. Only that a values shift is in order. Redefining what success means is a great place to start.

  23. William says:

    This site tells you all you need to know about government schools, from its inception to now.

    I managed to escape my twelve year sentence during 11th grade, and fortunately, wasn’t forced to attend the lodestar of government schools, which is kindergarten. If you want to learn virtually anything, online open courses are available to everyone for free. Want to learn math from 1+1 to advanced calculus, simply google Khan Academy… and that is just a start.

    • Yea, I had just heard about that website recently.

      I was fortunate in that my 7-12 grade experience was entirely self directed. Moreover, each subject (math, english, history, science, etc) were independent from each other in terms of grade level. Whilst working through 8th grade english I was completing 10th grade math, and so on. Grade 12 for me was essentially english lit for a couple of hours per day with the rest spend working in my dad’s residential / commercial painting business.

      While my progress was monitored, I set all my own goals daily and so long as deemed reasonable I could finish up by noon and go out and shoot hoops for the rest of the afternoon or play table tennis or chess with other students enjoying similar freedom. If the goals were a bit ambitious and I didn’t complete them during the school day then I was expected to complete them at home.

      By managing my own goals and time effectively and passing each unit of study (no grade, simply pass/fail, and a fail meat you did the unit again and again, until you pass) I was given even more freedom. My goals were no longer monitored, nor was my time. I could go to school and shoot hoops all day long if I wanted.

      Once I went to college I took some tests and was able to bypass a lot of the prerequisite courses, particularly in english and writing. But ultimately I pretty much hated college except for a few computer science courses at the beginning, because I was just given a problem and book on syntax (basic, pascal, fortran) and then I’d come up with an algorithm and then code it. Again, it was self taught and there were no exams. Did my app function and solve the problem, or not?

      I liked accounting and thus made an A in ever accounting course I took. And I liked some of the business courses involving “quantitative methods,” as they called it and some management courses. All in all for the stuff I liked and did well in, I probably could have completed college in one year and it would not have made a bit of difference.

  24. Trish says:

    Unless you want to go into medicine, education, engineering, law or science college is useless. I work for a gigantic corporation (I don’t have to read “Dilbert,” I live it) and a couple years ago I was asked to process resumes for entry-level customer service positions. There were literally thousands, and with a few exceptions everyone was a college graduate–hell, some had master’s degrees. You name the major, I saw it on the resumes–English, communications, criminal justice, women’s studies, marketing, sociology, etc.–and all of these expensively “educated” people were vying for an ten-dollar-an-hour phone jockey job that anyone could do. I have a young friend who just graduated from a pretty prestigious university, is near six figures in student loan debt, yet admits she’ll make more money waitressing than in any job using her major. Meanwhile my next-door neighbor, who dropped out of high school in his junior year, got an apprenticeship with an electrician, learned the trade, and now owns a pretty lucrative business. My father-in-law, a high school graduate, made a fortune in the moving business. Any time someone brings up how supposedly necessary college is, I say a name–Bill Gates.

  25. Yeah but try to apply for an engineering job at Microsoft or Apple without a degree and see if you get a call back.

    The 99.9% of society that aren’t CEO superstars need to work too. Don’t succumb to survivorship bias by embracing the big name successes while ignoring the mile-high pile of failures attempting the same thing. I completely agree that we need to stop pretending that everyone needs to go to college. I agree that school does little but blunt the desire for learning. But I disagree that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and any other wildly successful person proves anything about a given individual’s requirement for a degree in our society. If you want to be an engineer, chances are that you need a degree. If you don’t get one, and you don’t manage to pull off a Bill Gates, we’ll outsource your job to India where they still get degrees.

    If you want to gamble at being a superstar CEO, then you might not need a degree, just ruthless intelligence and drive. If you want a quality blue-collar job, then you don’t need to bother with college and you’ll probably do better than 50% of your white-collar peers. If you want to piss your life away in debt, major in the humanities. If you’ve got the knack (, you’re probably going to need a degree to survive in today’s society. Such is life.

    • The point of that part of the film, pfw, is merely that a college education doesn’t guarantee you success (or happiness) and the lack of one does not guarantee a necessary lack of same — so why the incessant emphasis? The whole message that kids are being sent is that if you don’t get into a good school and get a degree = failure, so by extension, not working yourself to the bone now = failure. You’re done before you even got started.

      While higher education is indeed a relatively effective and efficient way to train people in engineering, medicine and so forth, I contend that it is far from the best way. What if teenagers who wanted to go into medicine were allowed to tag along with doctors & surgeons, even observing operations and other procedures from a young age? Correspondingly, how many who THINK they want to go into medicine would be spared from wasting years and untold thousands of dollars because they didn’t have a true sense of what it was really like?

      And many, many kids now are self taught in computer programming. I know many guys who hold positions coding software who never had a day of formal education in it. EE is probably a different story. While there are those self taught it’s a pretty steep endeavor. Still, there are better ways to do it. Why the big delay? Kids should be finding out what they want to do with direct observation and hands on experience from about the age of 10 or so when their brains are so sponge like? Plus, they are creative and can think outside the box. I can recall many times as a kid, watching my dad, grandparents, uncles etc fixing or building something or the other and I would sometimes ask, but why don’t you do it this way. Often, that had never occurred to them and sometimes it was the better way.

      One friend of mine was self taught in Unix, got a good job with Sun and eventually went on to start a multi-million dollar company with its own version of Motif, a windowed operating environment within SunOS that was popular in the early 90s. He had no college training either.

      • I’ll bet he hired a bunch of guys with degrees though.

        You’re focusing on the 1-10% of society which, for lack of a better phrase, self-starts. The other 90-99% of society works for them, and once they get past the start-up stage they have an HR Department which filters resumes based on criteria like education. You can self-teach yourself anything, but convincing someone on the other end that you are competent is difficult the way things work now, especially in engineering fields. The degree becomes a proxy test for the ability to work in a soul-crushing system and still produce results.

        I agree that this current education system fails just about everyone who goes through it, but the world still is as it is, and must be navigated as it is. So while I agree that college is not necessary for all people, or even an indicator of success, for certain classes of professions it’s pretty important.

  26. James says:

    The curriculum of the schools today are controlled effectively by Washington D.C.. Does the film even touch on the Dept. of Education? The fact that Oprah’s filter machine let this through makes me think that her advertisers (who profit from a dumbed-down populace) do not fear the repercussions of this film.

    • Only indirectly, James, i.e., in advocacy for vocational training, fewer advanced placement courses and so on. No, it’s not a critique on the very root of the problem but some of the worst repercussions of that root problem which of course is the training of little state socialists.

      On the other hand, there was great emphasis on individualism – not really in philosophical terms but in practical terms. But even that can be a danger to the underlying collectivist scheme.

  27. Travis says:

    This film is necessary, but I wonder how much of a dent it will make. How many will get out of the hamster ball? I just hope that it reaches deep into the souls of many. I have no plans to indoctrinate my daughters follow our culture’s narrow definitions of success and achievement. There are too many unhappy zombies walking around out there that have lost the human creative spark and free spirit. I almost lost those myself until I found my path and began to think clearly and for myself.

  28. Rob K says:

    I’m looking forward to watching this. I’ve been calling public schools “confined learning operations” for a while now, since they remind me so much of confined feeding operations. Unnaturally crowd them in close confines, keep them restrained and inactive, feed them unnatural, highly processed, low quality food, and pump them full of vaccines and antibiotics to suppress disease outbreaks.

  29. m ghione says:

    Glad you were able to make it out to MH, and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the film. Tell Bea I said hello! We used to be buddied up at science camp years ago!!!

  30. Kimberly Sharpe-Slage says:

    Thank you!!

  31. i think this clip sums up the best answer for this:

    kind of long but its a classic. go to the 2 minute 55 second mark and watch from there

  32. My story:
    In high school I was one of the students who spent all day in school, in the toughest classes, then went home and did homework all night. I got straight A’s frequently, not that it really means anything now. All I see when I look back now is all of the good times I missed out on, and wish that I didn’t push myself so hard.

    In college I struggled almost immediately. I was so burnt out from high school that I no longer saw(see) the benefits of doing well academically. After the first couple weeks of school, I realized how useless lectures were for me, so mostly stopped attending. I did all of my work, but screwed up a little with time management and got one C.

    Come second semester, I got back up and gave it another shot. This time I signed up for more classes, and harder classes – I took several 300 level Computer Science classes and a 400 level Math. It started out well, but I was soon overwhelmed with everything. At about halfway through the semester, school wasn’t captivating anymore. It turned into a shit show; my life took a huge turn at that point. I started drinking heavily, smoked a little weed, and did plenty of illegal stuff i’d rather not talk about. These were all new to me. In fact, before that point many people would refer to me as a ‘goody goody’.
    Third semester rolls around, and I’m ‘back on track’, not drinking or doing anything illegal. My schedule is absolutely idiotic. I’m retaking two Computer Science classes, which I understood quite well despite the other things which were going on in my life. To be clear, one super easy class is a pre-requisite for the other slightly harder class, and it is the super easy one that I failed. It was a busy work class aimed towards weeding out slackers. I was initially taking these classes together because my advisor saw potential in me and let me take the next class in the sequence while taking its pre-req simultaneously. I got a C and D, so my advisor suggested I re-take both to increase my GPA. I got a 3.77 this semester.

    By fourth semester I’m back in a bunch of hard classes. I genuinely tried and i’m very interested in what i’m learning. I did well in everything except a very hard math class, which I failed. I don’t really know what my GPA was.

    Over the summer (now), I’ve decided to drop math as a major since I can’t do well in it academically. I also got an email about academic dishonesty in one of my classes. I planned one of my weeks really badly, and as a result couldn’t find the time to figure out a project in my CS class. I didn’t want to risk a bad grade, so I copied one of my friend’s. It was about 10% of my grade, and I would have gotten a 60% on it if I didn’t cheat. Turns out the school is likely going to give me an ‘XF’ for the class, which I had an A in. I can take another class about cheating to get this changed to an ‘F’.

    I don’t ever cheat. In fact, that was the first time I ever cheated on anything in my life (no joke). I am absolutely confused as to what I’m supposed to do now. I tried so hard in high school, overshot the requirements for this school by a mile, and now my grades are shit and I might not be able to stick with my major.


  1. […] the film Race to Nowhere generated quite a lot of comments, discussion and reasoned disagreement (School, Inc: Race to Nowhere). Now comes young and bright Erica Goldson and her Coxsackie-Athens Valedictorian Speech […]

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