The Race to Nowhere

A few weeks ago, I watched The Race to Nowhere. Oh man… it’s good. The documentary looks at education right now and more specifically the pressure parents and students are under. I think this is something every parent needs to watch and every student (eighth grade and up) should watch as well. It should be required before starting high school!!
While watching, I couldn’t help but think? Is College (with a capital C to mean a student’s dream/reach school whatever that may be…) worth it? And at what cost? Where do you draw the line between achieving and overachieving? 
In elementary school, I had the worst anxiety driving to school every morning. I don’t think I knew what the word “anxious” was but I would sit in the car, my stomach filling with more dread with every passing street. There was a moment in fourth grade where I had to leave the classroom after panicking about an FCAT prompt. In sixth grade, I had what I imagine was my first blown panic attack. I can’t even remember what it was about but I did NOT want to go to school– and I prided myself on my perfect attendance through graduation. There are too many examples from that point on to include them all. A paper about Animal Farm I couldn’t get just right, a group project involving a Bunsen burner, a serious bout of depression my junior year, fainting in my physics class. 
And, as I’ve mentioned, it all unraveled again in an even bigger way my freshman year at college. I went from thinking, “Okay, I’m at Georgetown. I’ve reached The Goal.” To realizing I was just beginning and I had no idea who I was or how to study or why I was doing any of it at all. 
The irony of it all is that this extreme personal low (I don’t think I could get any lower if I tried) resulted in me re-channeling my energy into starting this blog. From perfection to passion. From checking the boxes to thinking outside the box.
This was right around the time, seven years ago, when I was at my lowest. We had a long weekend for school and I was supposed to take an exam for one of my classes. Instead of cramming for the exam like a normal college student, I found myself in the hospital. If I was testing myself to find my breaking point, I found it. 
Watching A Race to Nowhere was actually pretty difficult because it brought back so many of these memories. Again though, it’s absolutely worth watching. Especially for parents who feel the pressure too and have to watch their kids go through it.


PS Here are all of my documentary recommendations.

PPS The movie reminded me of The Overachievers… I don’t think much has changed since it was written in 2007, if anything, it’s gotten even worse!

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Audrey Lin

Traditional education isn't for everyone, but I personally really value my college education. I'm a sophomore in college now, and although there are times when I get stressed out like heck and want nothing more than to just lie on the ground for forever, I'm so glad I'm here 🙂 I remember getting my acceptance letter during my senior year of high school, the relief I felt, that similar feeling of, "Okay I've made it. I've reached The Goal." Because up until then my whole life had been preparing to get into a good college, and when I finally got there, it was like… now what? I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do for… the rest of forever, so I don't quite have an answer for that yet, but it's been a great adventure so far and I'm exited for whatever's to come 🙂 -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

Michele Hart

As a college senior, I totally relate with everything you just said. I will have to watch! I love that you are so honest on your blog. It's refreshing to know that I am not alone! Great post 🙂

The Classy Crab

Laura Cronin

I totally understand a lot of these sentiments, I still struggle with not knowing what I'm doing next and feeling anxious about that! I will have to check this documentary out. Thank you for sharing, I hope you take this as a reminder to stop and slow down as well and look at all the amazing things you've accomplished!

Laura Aime Vous


To speak to your first point, the elephant in the room nationwide is that some colleges are worth it for some people, and others just really aren't. Viewing college as an investment in your education and future, some have better incremental ROIs than others, which is influenced both by the cost of the schools and the spectrum of opportunities they provide.

Rebecca H.

Carly, we met a few years ago, at Miami of Ohio. I'm a few (okay, double-digit) years older than you, and from the same area, and I can tell you, the change to an "achievement culture" started about four years after my time in school. Between our times in school, the hippie teachers of the 70s all aged out into retirement, American society decreed that every child should have a college opportunity, and parental involvement (at the middle and upper socioeconomic classes) skyrocketed. It was no longer acceptable to get through high school and go to vocational school, one had to go to college. It was no longer acceptable for the top tier of students to go to State U, one had to go to a named school. It was no longer acceptable for the val/sal to go to a "good" school, one had to make the Ivies. At the same time, disciplinary issues increased, and zero tolerance clampdowns began. We lost childhood. We lost the ability to be goofy teenagers and make mistakes that we could laugh about later.

Young people are obsessed with finding "the answers", and asking "is this going to be on the test". Hey kids, the test is "life" and there is no "right answer". You can only do what works best for you, and forget about everyone else. It took me a lot of years to learn this. And you can't get it from a book or the internet. xoxo

Rebecca |


Thank you for an amazing documentary recommendation. I have been teaching nearly 20 years. Looking for a new perspective and philosophy. Common Core is not the way to go.