Over 500 parents, students and alumni attended Harker’s Jan. 8 screening of “The Race to Nowhere,” a documentary film exploring the physical and emotional toll stress causes on a growing number of American teenagers in high-achievement environments.
The film also highlights the ironic fact that this unprecedented level of effort has produced a high percentage of students unprepared for college and the 21st century workplace.
Public screenings of the film are the centerpiece of a national social action campaign, initiated by a Bay Area mother whose own family’s experience inspired her to seek out top experts on education and adolescent stress. The film draws significantly on the work of these experts, including Dr. Denise Clark Pope of the Stanford School of Education, who spoke at the Harker upper school several years ago.
Head of School Christopher Nikoloff introduced the film , which screened in both Nichols Hall and the Saratoga gymnasium, noting that it offers an important opportunity for reflection, and with good timing as it comes during Harker’s yearlong accreditation self-study.
“A lot of the issues in the movie … we have been talking about for a long time with parents and teachers,” he said. “Now that they are in the national spotlight,” he added, “it’s a great time to make sure we’re part of the dialogue and do what we need to do to ensure optimal learning and growth at The Harker School — but not cross the line into a ‘Race to Nowhere.’”
Nikoloff encouraged the audience to join him and the many other Harker faculty, administrators and counselors available afterward for further discussion. The Nichols Hall atrium later buzzed for over an hour with dozens of spirited conversations.
Padmaja Indukuri was pleased that seeing the film with her daughter, Laya (grade 8), seemed to open the lines of communication between them. Referencing the difficulty many parents encounter in starting a conversation, she said, “I was asking questions but I didn’t know how she was feeling. She is telling me now, so I understand.”
The discussion is only beginning. Harker parents as well as students in the middle and upper schools can attend special discussions on campus in the next few weeks. Those who missed the Harker screening and would like to see the film can visit the RTN website to find a screening in their area.