by Vicki Abeles
If you’ve never seen the documentary Race to Nowhere and you are either a parent with kids in public school currently or kids who will be in public school in the future, or an educator, you need to see it. Race to Nowhere came out a couple of years ago and it’s a well-researched expose on the state of modern education in America, and what it’s doing to our kids.
Beyond Measure is a follow-up book (there is also a film, which is not yet available for general viewing), written by the creator of Race to Nowhere. Beyond Measure, too, is a further expose of today’s educational climate – with the extreme focus on testing and ranking and achievement and competition and resume-building – chock full of statistics, data, and anecdotes. It’s very much a wake up call: something’s got to give, because we are making our kids sick; we are cultivating a generation of stressed out, depressed, disengaged kids who are terrified of failure or risk, and who don’t know what they’re truly interested in or passionate about because their whole lives have been so structured, guided, and micromanaged.
I can vouch for the reality of this gloom and doom prophesy, as I watched my own brilliant kid crash in high school. There is not much that can compare with watching your child suffer such mental and emotional anguish.
Beyond the grim data, however, Beyond Measure offers hope. Abeles has tirelessly traveled the country visiting schools and interviewing educators and administrators who DO see the damage being done to our youth, and who DO want to effect real change. There are numerous schools across the U.S. that are implementing positive changes, big and small, in an effort to turn things around before it’s too late.
It would be wonderful if every parent and educator read this book and took it to heart. I keep thinking that I should buy a couple of extra copies and give them to our elementary school principal (who is all about the numbers and not very much about the actual children) and our Superintendent. I keep thinking that if they only read this, they would see the light and start making changes. But the truth is, I’m not that hopeful. I feel like our particular school district is too far gone – too entrenched in everything that is wrong with public education today, from academic expectations that are developmentally inappropriate, to unreasonable homework expectations, to withholding recess as a punishment, to supporting and defending Common Core and all the attending standardized testing.
Change, if it is to happen on a large scale, nationwide, will happen so slowly and incrementally that it will be years and years before this mess is turned around. I can’t wait that long, which is why I’ve turned to homeschooling.
In any case, Beyond Measure is an excellent read, and really is a must read for all parents and educators.