Sean Slade

Race to Nowhere and the Whole Child

We are about to enter the season of the education documentary. Much has been written about the four films coming out for theatrical run and community screenings this fall–Waiting For Superman, The Lottery, The Cartel, and Race to Nowhere–with their takes of the current state of U.S. education. But less has been mentioned about what comes next and what form the conversation should take after the screenings.

One film, Race to Nowhere, is worth a mention here because the filmmakers have planned follow-up discussions and ongoing dialogue. Producer Vicki Abeles was interviewed last week on CNN about the film and in particular about what parents and schools can do. The first step is to start a dialogue with your kids and your school.

The film's producers have made it a point to continue the conversation; to start a dialogue among the audiences and communities where it is being screened; and to seek answers, discussion, and understanding from those at the local level. It has taken the premise that the film is the start of the conversation and not the end. The Race to Nowhere team has also made a point of designing direct actions and discussions that involve—guess who—the students themselves.

The film fits with ASCD's commitment to a whole child approach to education, and healthy school communities in particular, but it was the commitment to ongoing dialogue that prompted ASCD's executive director, Gene Carter, to write the foreword to a facilitation guide that will accompany the film. It was a recognition of the filmmakers' desire to move the conversation out of the movie theater and into the schools, classrooms, hallways, and homes of each community. Dr. Carter writes

Challenges, when discovered, need to be addressed. Problems, when they arise, need to be solved. This is never so true as when we are talking about our children—their health, their growth, their education and their development. It is not enough to alert people to issues and then walk away. It is not enough to uncover problems and then neglect to work through them. It is not enough to lay blame and then move on.

Learn more about how your school and community can schedule a screening of the movie, preorder the DVD and facilitation guide, and find resources at

Comments (4)


September 10, 2010

I find it to be more a Race to the Middle than to nowhere.  The problem is that schools have ideas, they have research, they have solutions in their hands, and they are not implementing them, or they are cherry-picking research to follow and doing what looks good (and wins grant money).  We cannot grind our teachers into the ground with useless dog-and-pony shows and expect anything different in our system of education.  Students are different, the world is different - school needs to be different.

Free Webinar: Myths of Second Language Acquisition

September 13, 2010

[...] Race to Nowhere and the Whole Child [...]

Lori Barian

September 16, 2010

I am so grateful that people are beginning to talk about what children really need…not what the systems need to keep maintaining themselves.

Hooray for the whole child and all who value a well-rounded, humane, human-scale, relevant, community-connected education.


June 8, 2011

It is so comforting to know that others are speaking of this whole child.  It truly takes a “whole village to raise a child.” Every person in that child’s life plays a role and has the responsibility to do so.  These children are our future, and the world is changing so much every day. We should make it our missions to make sure our children are getting what they need to be THEIR best, not what someone else thinks they should be.

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