‘Road to Nowhere’ Stirs Education Grassroots
by Nancy Thorner
At a time when the quality of education is at question throughout this nation as teacher unions -- IEA here in Illinois -- funnel money and support to influence the makeup of school boards, and where various constituencies must be satisfied before students, a remarkable film has entered the educational scene.
"Road to Nowhere" is an independently produced film by a concerned mother turned filmmaker. It cannot be seen in local movie theaters. The film's purpose is to is to show the high-stakes, high-pressure culture that has invaded our schools and our children's lives. This remarkable film shines a light on the price young people pay for this "race to nowhere" where high-stakes testing has often replaced meaningful teaching and learning. Cheating is now commonplace. Also rampant in schools are stress-related illnesses, from stomach and headaches, to depression, burnouts, and experimentation with drugs. At the same time many young people are arriving at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.
In my home town Village of Lake Bluff in northern Illinois, which shares a common high school with neighboring Lake Forest, the Executive Director of LEAD ("Linking Efforts Against Drugs") and "Speak Up! Prevention Coalition," Betty Frank-Bailey, spearheaded the contracting of "Road to Nowhere" for the benefit of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff community residents.
Educational procedures in Lake Forest School Districts #115 and #67 and Lake Bluff's District #65 are most likely similar to those practiced in other areas of the state. Parents have a right to question whether memorization of no value is being required? Whether students are being taught to think critically or is teaching geared to passing ACT tests? What is the purpose of homework, how much is given, and how much is enough? Are students being treated as individuals in determining how success should be defined for them? Are elective like music and art considered less important to a child's development than offered AP courses? Is my high school a place of pent-up anxiety and depression
School Districts in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff are to be applauded for their willingness to assist LEAD in sponsoring "Road to Nowhere" which questions student achievements, educational practices, and the anxiety students experience in pressure cooker environments. Other generous sponsors of the film along with LEAD include The Buchanan Fund of the United Way, Spirit of 67 Foundation, Lake Forest D67 APT Parent Awareness, Lake Forest High School APT, School of St. Mary, Lake Forest Country Day School, Lake County Cares, and Speak Up! Prevention Coalition.
According to Kyle Schumacher, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services in Lake Forest District 67, over 2,000 community residents will have viewed "Road to Nowhere" by the time of its last screening. One "End of the Race" community folow-up discussion was already held on Friday, January 21st at Lake Forest's Gorton Community Center.
More follow-up discussions are being planned, at which time concerned citizens and parents will be able to ask questions of panels featuring individuals representing each of the three prisms of influence in a child's life: School, Community, and Family.
Additionally, "Road to Nowhere" will be shown to all teachers and staff in Lake Forest Districts #67 and #115 and in Lake Bluff District #65 during the next Tri-District Institute Day on February 15th, with time scheduled for follow-up discussions among the groups. Students, when appropriate, will also be shown the film with opportunities for feedback.
Tax payers, whether or not they have children enrolled in public or private area schools, want children to have positive and top-notch educational experiences.
Is your school district measuring up? All communities in Illinois, regardless of size, would benefit by contracting to bring "Race to Nowhere" to your own community along with wide-spread screenings scheduled for the public, school administrators, teachers, and students.
Don't be left out in becoming part of a grassroots effort across the nation for a national dialogue on education to galvanize action for positive change and better educated, better adjusted and happier children in your community.