By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – Just about everyone would agree that growing up nowadays is not like it used to be. Kids are under pressure to excel at an early age in school, sports and extracurricular activities. And many do. But many others struggle, sometimes with terrible consequences.
That premise is the focus of a critically acclaimed independent film, “Race to Nowhere.” Officials in the Westborough school district were so impressed after recently viewing the film that they are hosting a presentation of it Tuesday, Nov. 29, at the Mill Pond School, 6 Olde Hickory Path, at 7 p.m.
Race to Nowhere was produced by Vicki Abeles, a mother who had no previous experience in filmmaking. On the website www.racetonowhere.com, she explains how she was distressed to see how the pressures of being in school, and the associated workload, was affecting children in her community's district, including her own daughter, who was diagnosed with a stress-induced illness when she was only 12. Other stories highlighted include several students who were diagnosed with anorexia, depression and anxiety, and even one young teen girl who committed suicide.
Marianne O”Connor, the Westborough school district superintendent, said, “I recommend faculty, parents and community members view the film so that we can all actively engage in developing a solution to assist our children in finding a balance in their lives. We need to work together to prepare our children and equip them with the skills necessary to lead productive and emotionally healthy lives.”
Ilyse Levine-Kanji, a member of the Westborough School Committee, agreed with O”Connor.
“Many of us [in the school district] have seen this film – we all came at it from different viewpoints,” she said. “It's a great way to open up a conversation.”
The controversy surrounding homework figures prominently in the film, she said, specifically what should homework consist of and how much is enough.
Also discussed is the debate of memorization versus critical thinking, an area that Westborough school officials are actively addressing, Levine-Kanji said.
“Too many times, kids are just taught to memorize facts without thinking critically about something, about the logic behind a fact,” she noted.
“[The film] doesn's say that we don's want kids to be high achievers or that it is a bad thing to want your kids to succeed,” she added. “It just asks you to step back and ask, “Are we over-scheduling our kids?” “What's the best way to make sure our kids are happy and healthy?””
“This must be a concerted effort in order for any changes to take place,” O”Connor said. “The film will hopefully encourage a dialog among members of the community so that we can better understand how to assist Westborough students in becoming healthy and productive members of a global society.”
Tickets can be purchased now for $10 at http://rtnwestboroughps.eventbrite.com/ or for $15 at the door. O”Connor noted that the admission costs are to help recoup some of the film's purchase price.