November, 2011

More than 300 parents, educators and school administrators turned out at Hatboro-Horsham High School Nov. 15 for an HHEF-sponsored evening screening of “Race to Nowhere,” (www.racetonowhere.com) a highly acclaimed 2010 documentary created by California resident Vicki Abeles after her then 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a stress-induced illness.

After the screening, held during National Education Week, more than 100 members of the audience broke into small groups to discuss the issues raised in the film. Facilitating the discussions were volunteers with “Be a Part of the Conversation” (www.hatboro-horsham.org/conversation), a Hatboro-Horsham School district initiative begun last May to engage administrators, teachers, parents, students and the community in talking about issues related to substance abuse and other behaviors that put students at risk.

One of those facilitators was Ami Kirn, an educator and district parent. “The mother who worked diligently to create this film is striving to promote awareness of how schools today continually add unnecessary stress on students, and the common expression, ‘You can’t do it all,’ is not said enough to our youth. ‘Race to Nowhere’ shows how students are left to feel alone, and even hopeless, as they struggle to keep up a highly unrealistic pace with the demands of their homework and extracurricular activities.”

Kirn’s discussion group explored the questions: “What are you passionate about?” and, “Is it something that was encouraged or discouraged in school?” While members of the group briefly reflected on their own school experiences, they reformulated the question to determine if their children are being inspired. Kirn shared with the group a “positive experience” her son had in the fall. “We could not race around and do it all that day,” she said. “His involvement in a Book and Author Study Group at school had inspired him to attend a book signing in New Jersey and he chose that instead of an end-of-the-season pizza party with his fall baseball team.”

As part of the “Race to Nowhere” event, HHEF teamed up with the Horsham Township Library to initiate discussion groups focusing on three books with topics related to the film: “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids,” “The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills our Children Need – and What We Can Do About It,” and“ ‘Doing School’: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students.” To join one of the remaining book discussion groups, visit www.hhef.org.


Arun Gandhi