The Race Makes a Stop at Irvington

Race to Nowhere is a well-told story of everyone competing in the Race

By: Kelsey Ichikawa

The irony of the situation could not have been clearer when I went to watch Irvington’s showing of the Race to Nowhere documentary on Thursday, September 9, 2013.  Race to Nowhere is a film that investigates the rising levels of stress, cheating, and unhappiness in America’s rigorous academic culture.  Yet the primary reason for many of the students’ attendance, including my own, was the extra credit offered by teachers.  So even as the film forced people to consider their educational choices of too many APs, excessive extracurriculars, and sacrifices of personal health, the very nature of their attendance unequivocally showed they were still stuck in the Race.

However, the movie ended up being worth the time sacrificed from studying.  It was a rare experience to view a documentary whose subjects I so strongly identified with.  Perhaps the film would not be as interesting for people who can’t relate to the issue, but in the context of Irvington, the documentary’s applicability kept the audience’s attention. With fluid transitions between topics like the depression caused by stress at school, the lack of time for everything in a student’s life, and the fierce competition for entrance to top-notch colleges, the film hit hard with raw testimonials from teens suffering from the pressures of being a student.  Especially poignant was the story of Devon, a 13-year-old who committed suicide after struggling in her math course.

Another aspect that Race to Nowhere developed well was the mindsets of all sides in the education realm.  The audience gained insight into the minds and motives of parents and teachers, people we students may often partially blame for our intense workload.   In addition, it maintained a healthy balance of interviewing a wide scope of students while still narrowing its focus to follow several students’ individual lives and stories. It would have been more interesting had the film had shot across a wider demographic range, as the schools mentioned were primarily located in California.  But despite that, the documentary’s coverage of students from a range of backgrounds—Latino, Asians, the wealthy, the underprivileged, the non-honors, the AP—emphasized the shared experiences of all kinds of adolescents.

Even if playing the movie at Irvington does not alter many of students’ choices in practice, at least it compelled its viewers to recognize and consider, at least for two hours, the dismal lifestyles of today’s young scholars.  It was a completely relevant film that was worthy to show at Irvington, if only to make us acknowledge our own role in the Race.



Caption: Race to Nowhere promotional poster

racetonowhere pic