Saturday, March 19, 2011

Race to Nowhere

Race to Nowhere

by Irene Madrid

I recently attended a documentary film sponsored by the Burlingame Mother’s Club.

A bay area mother of three created this film because, as her children progressed in school, the homework, organized sports, and community activities took over their lives.

She noticed that family dinners were becoming rare and most interactions were related to questions about homework when the kids were home.

The children developed headaches, stomach pains and were often sleep deprived. Most horrifying of all, a beautiful 13 year old neighbor girl had committed suicide. Her parents said she showed no signs of problems. Her life was filled with piano and violin lessons, and much homework. She was always “doing”.

Many high school students were interviewed and it was evident these super achieving kids were highly stressed. They were plugged in for success but childhood happiness was severely lacking.

The admissions director of Cal-Berkeley noted that these high achievers were often in need of remedial English and Math. Kids studied to the test and quickly forgot what the information was all about.

One high school teacher pointed out that many European test scores were higher than ours but did less homework. Often teachers, filled with the joy of teaching, gave up after several years because they were simply teaching to the test.

Creative thinking and problem solving have no place in such a goal oriented system. Children don’t appreciate the joy of learning. Education becomes a product.

The difficulty of a materialistic culture is a daunting challenge. It will take time for parents and educators to make healthier changes. One solution is to limit homework to one or two days a week, and no homework on weekends or holidays. Another is to insist extra curricular activities be limited and work around the family dinner hour.

It will be a concrete effort but much more balanced for health and happiness in our children. As parents, keep vigilant about after school demands and join with others to save our children’s childhoods.

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