Race to Nowhere (2010) - full transcript

RACE TO NOWHERE is a close-up look at the pressures on today's students, offering an intimate view of lives packed with activities, leaving little room for down-time or family time. Parents today are expected to raise high-achieving children, who are good at everything: academics, sports, the arts, community-service. The film tackles the tragic side of our often achievement-obsessed culture, with interviews that explore the hidden world of over-burdened schedules, student suicide, academic cheating, young people who have checked out. RACE TO NOWHERE asks the question: Are the young people of today prepared to step fully and productively into their future? We hear from students who feel they are being pushed to the brink, educators who worry students aren't learning anything substantive, and college professors and business leaders, concerned their incoming employees lack the skills needed to succeed in the business world: passion, creativity, and internal motivation.

- I can't really remember
the last time I had a chance

to go out in the backyard
and just run around.

- School's just so much pressure
that every day, I would wake up,

and I would wake up dreading it.

- There's definitely been times
when I've sat doing my homework,

you know, and then
just started crying.

- Not eating made me
have more energy,

and I could get
so much stuff done at night,

but it still was not enough time
to get everything done.

- My mom checked me
into a stress center.

- You think
you know your children.

I thought I knew my little girl.

- We definitely, at college,
we still do whatever it takes

to get the A,
Just like in high school.

- Things that actually
get our students to think

are pushed aside.

- How come no one's insisting
that it change?

♪ - When I was a child ♪

♪ Everybody smiled ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ Very late at night ♪

♪ And in the morning light ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ I got lots of friends ♪

♪ Yes, but then again ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ Very late at night ♪

♪ And in the morning light ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ And, oh, ♪
♪ when the lights are low ♪

♪ Oh ♪

♪ With someone I don't know, ♪
♪ oh ♪

♪ I know how you feel ♪

♪ No secrets to reveal ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ Nobody knows me ♪

♪ Nobody knows me ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

- I came from a family
where my parents were divorced.

My mother
was a single parent

raising four kids
on very little income.

That drove me
to work really hard

so that I could be independent.

My mom taught me
from a very young age

that an education
was something

that would help you
go far in life,

and it was something that
couldn't be taken away from you.

"Good night, moon.

Good night,
cow jumping over the moon."

When I had kids, I wanted
to be a really good mom.

- Dada.
- Yes, Shelby?

- Dada.
- Yes.

- I wanted to provide my kids
with the security

of a stable family,

and I wanted my kids
to have a good education.

I wanted to give them

the opportunities
that I didn't have growing up.

So what do you think?
- It was fun.

- Was it good?
- Yes.

- I also really wanted
to have time together.

- Everybody wave.

What are you growing this year?

- Corn.
- Corn? What else?


- To the sky.

- And that worked out well
for a few years,

but as my kids got older

and the pressures on them
from school were greater

and the time commitment

for extra-curricular
activities increased,

it became much more complicated.

- Zakary.

Let's go.
Let's go. Here.

- I didn't think when I had kids

that the only time
I would see them

was for 20 minutes at dinner.

In all three of my kids,
I started to see the toll

that the schedule and the stress
was taking on them.

Our oldest daughter
looks like all is fine.

She's doing really well
in school,

but she doesn't have time
to sleep at night

or to hang out with friends.

For Jamey,
when she started seventh grade,

the workload really increased.

No matter how much time
she spent doing homework,

she wasn't getting the grades
that she expected.

In Zakary's case,

when he started
fourth grade this year,

the homework level increased.

Every evening became
a battle around homework.

Right now?
- Yeah.

- Well, you need help
'cause you weren't doing it.

- No, I didn't!
- Let him do it himself.

- Do your-do it.

- All three of my kids started
complaining about headaches

from school or stomachaches,

or they would wake up
in the middle of the night

worried about a test
the next day,

and I didn't really know
how seriously to take it.

At that same time,

a 13-year-old girl in
my community committed suicide.

She was the exact same age
as my oldest daughter.

When something
like that happens,

you can't help but start
worrying about your own kids.

I started checking
more often on them.

There was a night where
I found my daughter out of bed,

doubled over in pain.

Doug and I took her
to the emergency room,

and after a series of tests,

the doctors concluded that her
condition was stress-induced.

I wanted to understand
what was going on.

I started talking to parents
in my community, to students,

to experts, and visiting schools
across the country.

I was determined to find out
how we had gotten to a place

where our family
had so little time together,

where our kids
were physically sick

because of the pressures
they were under,

and where a 13-year-old girl
had taken her life.

- These kids are so
overscheduled and tired.

We are always looking
at the next step,

and this is what the kids say.

They say, "In elementary school,

I was worried
about high school."

We've stolen 11th
and 12th grade from them.

I'm afraid that our children

are going to sue us
for stealing their childhoods.

- We're a New York City suburb,
high-powered parents,

who are very competitive
themselves, many of them,

and, you know, and they'll go
to parties and things,

and they want to be able
to talk about their kid

is going to be going to Harvard
or the equivalent,

and I worry.

What happens when their kid
is not going in that direction?

- You have a system
that is trying

to further robot-icize students,
mechanize them, if you will,

to be, you know,
these academic competitors,

these producers.

The very nature of it in itself
is very dehumanizing.

- I put so much pressure
on myself.

- I definitely felt a lot of
pressure to have perfect grades.

- The stress definitely
first comes from home.

- Because my mother
wasn't able to graduate,

she puts extra pressure on us.

- You need to have
the best grades.

You need to be able
to afford the college.

- My family is low-income,

so there's no way I could afford
college without financial aid.

- Until senior year,
I haven't had any free periods.

I haven't had lunch periods.

- I didn't want to take out
loans, not for my family.

- When I was in middle school,

I would sometimes stay up
till 1:00 in the morning.

- I would spend
six hours a night,

at least, on my homework.

- It's not just your homework.

- I have soccer practice
every day from, like,

after school to 6:00,
and then from 6:00 to 8:00,

I have my
outside-of-school practice.

- We're in so many
different clubs.

- Now it's all about
preparing yourself

to look good for colleges.

- High school is about
learning how to pass tests.

- You try to stuff
as much information

into your brain as possible,

then as soon as you're
done with it, out it goes.

- You start out in,
like, kindergarten.

- You have to get into
the top schools.

- You have to take tests
and do interviews

to get into public high schools.

- And then AP,
and then a four-year college.

- If I don't get into college,
you know,

my mind-set is basically, like,
you know, I'm screwed.

- And then graduate school.

- Now, how are you
gonna get into

a top-tier medical school
or law school?

- And then what?

People get caught up in this,
like, race to nowhere.

- I'm Jessica Vaughn,

and I'm a senior.

I just wanted
to put it out there

to parents and teachers
that the worst question

you can ask your child
in high school is, "And?"

Like, they'll say,
"I'm in three AF' classes."


"Well, I do sports."

"Well, I work at the theater."

Well, what else are you doing?"

"I'm in three clubs."

"Well, you know what
looks really good?

"Community service.

"They're looking for all of this
on college applications.

Why aren't you doing this,
this, and this?"

And I find that that question
comes up all the time.

Everyone expects us
to be superheroes.

We need to be doing more.

Why aren't we doing more
for our community?

We need to be doing more.

Why aren't you
working harder in school?

And I think sometimes parents
need to just step back and say,

"You know what?
You've done a really good job."

- Some of the pressure
that is out there is real.

If you want to have
the same opportunities

that your parents had,

to attend those kinds of schools
and all, you have to do more.

You have to have
better test scores.

You have to have better grades.

You have to have
more activities.

So there is definitely
some part of the pressure

that's created
by the demographic.

- I can't help it,
I mean, you know,

when you start
their freshman year

and you go to the orientation
at the high school

and all they talk about
is what is necessary

to get into college.

People are raising their hands
and asking about AP courses and,

"How do you get into UC?"

I mean, you look around,
and you think,

"I guess this is what
everybody's gonna be doing."

- I think if you ask them,

they'd probably say that we
did pressure them in some way,

because we did want them
to have a choice.

That was my, you know,
feeling as a parent,

that the better you do,
the more choices that you have.

- I want them to be able to do

what I wasn't able
to accomplish.

Me, as a young parent
having four kids,

I wasn't able
to go back to school

and get myself an education,

and so I want them
to have the things

that I never was able to have.

- Even though we know better,

even though we know we shouldn't
be pushing our kids,

inadvertently, we are, you know?

I'm just as guilty of saying
to my daughters

when they get in the car,
"So how was school today?

"Did you get your test back?
Do you have any homework?

"How much homework do you have?

How are you gonna study
for that test?"

Because I am also feeling
the pressure

that they need to work really,
really hard.

- We want the best for them,
but that, in the end,

is causing us
to put pressure on them

to be whatever we think
they ought to be.

Even though we send them
to all these sports camps

and all their private lessons
and the tutors and the-

we would drop anything
any time for our kids,

but in my mind,
it's gone way to the extreme.

- We're all caught up in it.

We're all afraid
that our children

won't be able to be
as successful as we are.

- And so you have a fear
from the parents that,

"My kid needs to be able
to get a job.

"Okay, I got 'em
in the accelerated program.

"That's the first step,
but now they need to perform

and compete so they can
get into a 'good school, “

And it's out of love.

It's out concern.
It's out of fear.

It's out of all these things
that parents normally have,

but it ends up turning kids
into little professionals.

All: I Oh, light the candles I

I All around the world I

I Let them shine I

I Let them shine I

I Oh, let them shine I

- We live in a society today
where, like,

oh, you have to be smart,
but also, you have to be pretty,

and also, you have to,
you know, do sports,

and you have to be involved
in the arts,

and amongst all that,

you have to find something
unique about yourself,

and you have to know yourself,

because if you don't
know yourself

before you do all of that,
you're gonna lose yourself.

- I have grown up
in Oakland, California.

I'm 19 years old.

I went to a private school
starting in kindergarten.

It was a very competitive,
small school.

A lot of homework started
probably around fifth grade,

but middle school started about
an hour per class a night.

I participated in soccer,
took tennis lessons,

went to Hebrew school
three times a week,

plus the homework
on top of that.

It was a very hectic schedule.

Home life in middle school
was difficult.

It was the time when my parents
and I had the biggest fights.

I was expected
to get straight A's.

I had so much homework.

They would want to know
when I had tests

and tell me to study for them,

and I wouldn't want them to know
anything about my school life.

I figured out that not eating
made me have more energy.

I would stay up later.
It gave me insomnia.

So I wouldn't sleep at night.

I could get
so much stuff done at night,

but it still was not enough time
to get everything done.

In tenth grade,
my anorexia flared up.

I had so much homework
in tenth grade,

so many papers,
so many projects.

I would stay up all night.

I remember coming up
to my history teacher

the day my history final
was due.

I came up to him crying.

I had a huge coffee in my hand,
and I was sobbing,

and about ten other people
did too.

I got very sleep-deprived.

When you are sleep deprived,
your concentration is off.

Instead of taking notes
and remembering everything,

you're kind of just
staring off into space.

I was sent to a facility for
eating disorders specifically.

I was admitted
to a medical hospital twice.

When I returned to school
in 11th grade,

my weight had plummeted.

The workload had increased,

and the head of the school
told me

she did not want me coming back,

because she could not have
students and teachers

worrying about me.

I was too much of a distraction.

Another high school was really
hard to go into senior year,

so I took my G.E.D.

Good boy.

- The common force
that drives kids

towards so many negative
behaviors is stress.

It's coming from schools.

It's coming from colleges,

and it's coming from
all the places

that it's always come
from during adolescence.

Don't forget,
adolescence is a tough time.

You know, you worry
about what you look like,

what you feel like,
what you act like to your peers.

The media tells you exactly
what you're supposed to buy

to be acceptable,

what you're supposed
to look like

and how you're supposed to think
to be acceptable,

and you're trying to answer
this fundamental question

of adolescence,
which is, "Who am I?"

- I think it's captured by this
girl that came into my office.

She's got all the great
social skills,

but she's wearing
a cutter T-shirt.

That's a T-shirt
that's pulled low over the wrist

to hide cutting.

And by the end of the session,
she sort of pulls it back,

and that morning,
she had taken a razor

and incised the word "empty"
into her forearm.

And she's emblematic, to me,
of the kinds of kids

that I'm seeing more
and more frequently,

and that's kids who look
terrific on the outside,

terrific presentation,
but you roll up their sleeve,

and metaphorically,
and in her case, literally,

they're bleeding underneath.

- When success is defined
by high grades, test scores,

trophies, we know that we end up
with unprepared, disengaged,

and ultimately unhealthy kids.

- I've gone through bouts
of depression,

just because
you feel so swamped.

There's so much work.

It feels like there's piles
and piles of work to be done,

and it's all kept in your head,

and you don't know
how to sort through it all,

and you don't ever think
you're ever gonna get it done.

- Sometimes
when I get stressed out,

I feel a little sick.

Like, I actually get headaches.

- Usually when stress
gets really bad,

I get a lot of stomachaches.

- I think it was in November
where I almost, like,

had an emotional breakdown,
because at the end of November,

that was when UC's application
was due, November 30th,

and I was also applying
for a scholarship.

I wasn't eating.

I wasn't even
taking care of myself.

You care so much
about getting in,

about making people proud of you

and living up
to that expectation

and that standard that, like,

you start neglecting yourself,
your health.

Everything gets focused
on that piece of application

that you're putting in
for people who never meet you.

- I was really stressed, and I-
all my joints swelled.

- In sixth grade last year,

I had a lot of homework
one night,

and it got really late,
so my mom told me to go to bed,

but I thought my teachers
would get really mad at me

if I didn't finish my homework,

so I woke up in the middle of
the night to finish my homework.

- These kids are growing.

They need 9 to 11 hours of sleep
in elementary school.

The high school kids
are still growing.

Some of them
get six hours of sleep

because they're taking
six AP classes.

It is a form of neglect
of the children

that they don't
get enough sleep.

- I visited a high school once
that had a drug problem.

Well, I assumed
it was recreational drugs

like I knew about in my youth,

but no, I'm talking about
stimulants and things like that

that help you stay up all night

or tranquilizers
that help you come down

after you've been taking
too many stimulants.

Those are the kinds of problems
that we're seeing on the rise.

- I took Adderall my first time
as a junior.

I knew a lot of people
that took it,

and I would ask them for it
every once in a while.

It seems like everyone
has ADD now,

so most anyone you talk to knows
someone that takes medicine.

I was a really well-rounded
person in high school,

and it's hard to be the
vice president of your class,

play on the soccer team,
and do homework.

It made me feel focused
and almost better,

because, "Look, I can keep up
with everyone now.

I come to school,
and my homework's done."

My senior year, I started
doing it a little more,

'cause it was easier to get;
all of a sudden, my-

I couldn't breathe as well,

and it was hard
to catch my breath,

and I'd be trying to breathe,
and it was scary.

Like, I'd be sitting there
trying to catch my breath.

I couldn't fall asleep at night.

- I've often wondered.
I mean, why am I doing this?

I'm doing this so I can go
to college and get a job I like,

ultimately so I can be happy,
but if I'm not healthy,

then none of that
really matters.

Why am I-it just doesn't
really seem to add up.

- We do have a sense that both
depression and anxiety

are rising among adolescents,

and if we're seeing it
in childhood, you know,

if we're seeing the stomachaches
and the headaches

that clearly are related
to stress in childhood,

then what do you think they're
seeing in adulthood?

You know, this translates
into the same stomachaches

and the same chest pains,

but it also translates
into high blood pressure

and heart disease,

and all of the other
manifestations of stress.

- We do an awful lot of talking
about kids who are stressed

and are working too hard,

but we sort of forget that there
are just as many, if not more,

kids who have taken a look
at this crazy system and said,

"I'm not interested in this."

I think we lose boys
in particular,

because boys tend to act out,
and we lose girls to depression.

- Ever since middle school,

I've felt bad about school,

because I don't like
to disappoint people.

You feel bad about yourself.
You feel guilty.

You stay up at night.

I remember this all too clearly
about not doing homework

and coming home from school
and being like, "I'm sorry, Mom.

I didn't do homework,"
And I would cry.

- I felt basically
like a prison guard,

that I had to constantly
be asking,

"Did you do your homework?

Are you done
with your homework?"

I personally felt
a lot of anxiety

about what they
were supposed to be doing.

Sam had trouble with school,
really, from the very beginning.

He struggled through
elementary school,

and he also struggled
through middle school.

He always was
at grade level or above,

but I think the struggle
was always just the homework.

- Last year was gonna be
my redemption year.

I took a bunch of hard classes,
and I was like,

"I'm gonna pass
all these classes."

- And so we would
have heart-to-hearts

at the beginning of every year,

at the beginning
of every semester.

"I'm gonna work harder
this time.

I'm gonna do it.
I promise."

- Halfway through the year,
I was like, "This is ridiculous.

Like, no student should
be put through this much work,"

and I dropped
some of the classes.

Really, the only thing
that kept me in high school

was the sport wrestling,
because I've been wrestling

since my freshman year,
and I just fell in love with it.

Wrestling was
a very intense sport.

Like, last year,
l weighed 160,

and I cut down to 145 pounds,

but that means, every day,
you're starving.

Every day after practice,
you don't get to drink.

You stand on the scale, and
you're looking at the number,

and you're like,
"Do I get to drink?

Do I get to have
a piece of lettuce tonight?"

The school is like,

"You're dedicating
your whole life to your grades."

And then the sport is like,

"No, you're dedicating
your whole life to us."

- I started to understand
more and more

what was actually
going on with him and that,

you know, it just wasn't
physically possible

for him to do the work.

Not that he wasn't
bright enough.

It's just-that type of work,

hours and hours of sitting still
just wasn't gonna work for him.

- I have school for seven hours.
I get out of school at 3:10.

I go to my sport until probably,
generally around 7:00.

I come home tired,
wanting to go to sleep,

and then I got to stay up
till 12:00 or 1:00

to finish all my homework
and then wake up the next day

and do it all over again.

Yeah, eventually,
school was so bad

that the negatives
outweighed the positives

of being at the school
just to wrestle,

and I couldn't do it anymore,

so I left that school,
and I left the sports team.

- When you have students

that just have three hours
of homework,

four hours of homework after
soccer practice or after work,

and they're gonna have that
every night,

and they have weekend homework,
and it's all-

their whole future
is on the line at that moment,

it's no longer about learning.

- Jamey has always been
such a lighthearted,

fun kid with
a great sense of humor.

She always loved school
up until fifth grade.

- The last time I was
really excited to go to school

and excited about learning
was in fourth grade.

When we got to middle school,

I think expectations
changed a lot.

- In sixth grade,
the workload increased.

She would come home
to hours of homework.

I started noticing
that she was really, you know,

a duck trying to paddle
as quickly as she could

to keep her head
above the water,

and she wasn't
having a really easy time.

- It's ironic,

and here's the thing
that not everybody understands.

The countries
that outperform us,

many of them,
on the international tests,

actually give less homework than
we do here in the United States.

There's almost no correlation
between academic achievement

in elementary school
and homework.

When you get to middle school,
there's a slight correlation,

but anything
that you're doing after an hour,

pretty much,
that correlation fades.

And in high school,
there is a link,

but really, we see a fallout
after two hours.

So you have to look at
the options of homework and say,

"What is developmentally

"What can these kids handle?

"And what is the purpose
of homework?

Why are we doing it
in the first place?"

We have parents who do their
homework for their kids.

We have parents who edit
their kids' homework.

We have parents who correct
their kids' homework.

If the teacher is using homework
as a gauge for understanding,

that's not gonna work.

- I know you had a Japan quiz,

'cause you made me quiz you
last night, so we know that's-

a large part of our time every
evening is trying to manage

all three kids
getting their homework done.

That's the question every night.

- So you do-finish this one
and do your math page,

and then that'll leave you-

- And last night, you know,

my wife had to leave
for a couple hours,

and my youngest was supposed
to be doing homework,

and I wasn't quite aware of it,
and so when she came home,

she asked him if he had done
his homework, and he hadn't,

and so immediately, I mean,

the minute she walked
in the door,

we were having to discuss

whether he did
his homework or not.

You know, I get pulled into it.

I should have been aware
and maybe applying the pressure

for him to have done it
and done it well,

and we ended the evening
with some turmoil about-

surrounding homework.

- This is what you do is,
you have a mock one that you-

- At what point did it become
okay for schools to dictate

how students live their lives
once the bell rings?

Because that's sort
of a private time.

That's family time.

There's some weird,

like, molecular
communication here.

When I first started
teaching AP biology,

the first thing I did was,
I cut the homework load in half,

and what happened
to the AP scores?

They went up.

Now, that's very telling.

When you cut homework in half
and AP scores improve,

what's the value
of the homework?

- So there's a couple of things
that drive homework

at different grade levels.

There are the standards,
and literally,

there is so much content
to teach that the teachers feel

that they have to then
load up the homework

to try and get
that content across.

Parents expect homework.

It's going to seem like you're
not doing your job as a teacher

if you say, "No homework today."

Parents need
to educate themselves

about the fact that homework

is not going
to make their kids any smarter.

The schools have our kids
for seven hours a day.

That should be plenty for them
to impart the kind of knowledge

that they want to do,

and then the kids
should go home,

and there's so much more
to a child's life

than just what's going on
in school.

There was kind of
a real lull period in homework

that went from the 1900s
almost up to the 1950s,

and at the same time,
the labor laws were changing.

Those two things
went together very nicely,

and kids started to have
more of a childhood.

And then there was Sputnik,
and all of a sudden,

we were falling behind
in the space race.

And then it kind of faded out
again, which makes sense,

because when you think about
what this country was like

in the late '60s and early '70s,

it was much more
of a free-thinking time

and a big change
of social ideas.

The upswing in homework has
been going on since about 1983

with A Nation at Risk,
but I think the level got upped

after the passage in 2002
of No Child Left Behind.

- So the principle behind
the No Child Left Behind Act

is to set high standards,
believe every child can learn,

and measure to see
if we're getting results.

- This overwhelming feeling
came down

from the federal government,
from the state saying,

"No, no, no, we need to push
our kids academically,

because we're not competing
with other countries."

So all of a sudden,
they're being forced

into this one mold
that we never, ever had had.

- Our students don't do well
compared to many other nations,

particularly in science
and math,

primarily because the way
we teach science and math

is to prepare for the test.

- When American students
encounter questions

that are not just like what
they've seen in their class,

they fall apart, partly because
the strategy for teaching math

in the United States
tends to be more formulaic.

- So Wilson's 14 Points
offered these groups

the premise
of self-determination.

When you did the review sheet,

this is something
that was on there

that I just gave the answer,

but this is gonna be
on your test,

so you should know about it.

- No Child Left Behind,
what we know is,

the measures
don't necessarily measure

what they're supposed
to measure.

It becomes literally
just drowning in content,

and the teachers are cutting out
things that they know

to be very developmentally
appropriate or very successful,

like project-based learning.

Wonderful projects,

we no longer teach them,
because they're not on the test,

and everything becomes
about the tests.

- We're told, "Either you do it,
or you don't have a job,"

And we've just kind of gone
with the flow, because our job,

our bonus money was based
on our test scores.

If your kids did well, you got
bonus money from the state.

Well, you know,
everybody pushes,

because it means a bonus check.

- One of the craziest things
about No Child Left Behind is,

like, so your school's
doing a bad job,

so we're gonna give you
less funding

and less time and less support.

So these fairies are arguing,
and all of a sudden,

winter's turning into spring,
and spring's turning hotter,

and so what does that tell us
about those two?

Ah, they're sort of powerful,

These fairies have some power.

I grew up in the Bay Area.
My dad was born and raised here.

So I feel very tied to Oakland.
I always knew I wanted to teach.

I went to graduate school.
I found a program at UC Berkley.

You get your masters
and credential at the same time

in two years,
so l joined that program.

This was the school
that hired me.

I just really dove right in
and loved it.

I wanted to teach
social justice,

and I wanted
to really change the system

and change these kids' lives

and get them to see learning
as a lifetime skill

that's important for them
to move out of their

sort of socioeconomic strata,

and it's really hard to do
in education today.

I mean, I pretty much was,
you know, fighting

and was working hard
and was feeling like

I was making a difference,
but it's gotten harder

and harder to feel like
I can teach the things

I believe in versus be a yes-man
and sort of do what all the-

what the district
and the state-

and, you know, federally,
all the pressure's on us.

Demetrius ditches Helena
in the forest,

where she finds Lysander.

The standards very much
go along with the testing

and this whole idea that,
you know, there's certain things

that kids need to know.

I believe that one
of the main things

we are doing in schools
is socializing,

and the jobs don't necessarily
need you to know

how to use a semicolon.

They need you
to be a critical thinker.

They need you
to be a problem solver.

They need you to be-you know,

be able to work in groups
with other people.

So things that actually
get our students to think

and work together and care
are pushed aside.

What's happened more and more
with No Child Left Behind

and the testing craze is,
instead of, you know,

professional developments

or making teachers
more accountable

or working on getting rid
of the teachers

who don't actually
do any teaching,

they decided that they need
to give more tests.

These tests
that they do horribly on,

it's not related
to my curriculum.

You're testing them
on their culture,

and they are
from a different culture

than this testing culture.

- CAHSEE is basically a test
that determines whether or not

you will get a diploma
for high school,

and I feel like I have
set many goals for myself,

which is to graduate
from high school

and go through college
and become a lawyer.

I'm really thinking
about Harvard.

I'm really trying.

I've been getting 4.0s for
three marking periods already,

and so hopefully
I can keep that up,

but when I heard about
this CAHSEE test,

I became really nervous,

because I felt like this CAHSEE
might, you know, end my dreams.

- My philosophy was, you know,

to get these kids
to love learning,

to get them to see learning
as power, you know?

Learning as power.

Like, if you want to have power
in your life

to do whatever you want to do,
you have to be a learner.

You have to read the paper.
You have to care.

From day one, it was very clear

that that is not what
the district wants me to do.

If you aren't teaching things
that you love,

you cannot do this job.

- Wake up.

- So what's gonna happen now?

- He's gonna
fall in love with her.

- Oh, okay, Lysander.
Wake up lovingly.

I realize
that my educational philosophy

and what I believe is just
and efficacious.

I couldn't reconcile that
with all the inefficiencies

and what the district believes
I should be doing.

I just couldn't
make that balance

and felt like the fight of that
is just killing me.

It's sucking the life out of me.

I ended up resigning,

but it's been the hardest
decision of my life.

I've always been a teacher.

I've always wanted
to be in East Oakland,

and I love these kids.

I mean, one of the things
that I never knew

about teaching was,
I'm a mother.

I'm a friend.

I'm a mentor,
and I don't want to leave them,

and, I mean, I see these kids
more than their parents

half the time,
because I'm with them every day,

and because
I'm an English teacher,

they do all this writing for me,

and so I learn about their lives

and their fears
and their beliefs,

and I don't want them to feel
like I've just given up on them.

- Clearly, the first thing
we need to improve education

in urban schools,

in schools
that are serving students

who are
economically disadvantaged

is greater equity,
because right now,

students in more
affluent communities

are going to schools
that have more resources

than students who are
in low-income communities.

It doesn't make sense to me
that we don't invest up front

and then are willing to pay
the costs through prisons,

welfare, health costs,
and all the other ways

in which individuals suffer
and society suffers

when we don't invest up front,

but I don't think the problem
is really just with kids

in low-income schools.

I think the United States
really needs to rethink

how we do schooling
and how much we want to invest

in our next generation.

One of the things
we know from research is,

it's the quality of the teaching
that matters most.

I think countries
that understand that

and have invested
in quality teaching

are the ones that are killing us

on these
international comparisons.

In Singapore,
just as an example,

the government selects the top
20% of their high school class

and offers them a full ride,

and a stipend to be trained
to be a teacher.

It's very high-status,
and there's no opportunity cost,

whereas in the United States,
you have to go a fifth year,

and you have to pay tuition,

and you forgo a year
of being able to work,

so the financial cost
is quite great,

yet the financial reward
is very small.

- Okay, so imagine you've got
a long sequence of numbers.

Being a math teacher is
something I always wanted to do.

I got close to adulthood
and said,

"Wow, my life is really gonna
be hard if I choose to do this."

How is that possible?

And you can only do it
for the love of it for so long.

You can only fight
the good fight for so long

if you feel that you don't have
any reinforcements behind you,

that culturally,
that financially, societally,

the fact that we don't have as
great respect for our teachers

as we do for some
other professions means,

well, why should I go on
doing this thing

if it's clearly not very valued?

I do love this thing.

I do want to do this thing,
but I'm gonna have to find a way

to do it on my own terms,

because the most popular way
to do it is a way

that's gonna burn me out
inside of five years,

like it does for most teachers,

so I became a private tutor.

- The tutoring industry is
a multimillion-dollar industry,

and when I say tutoring, I mean
individual private tutors,

but also the enrichment programs

like Kumon and Sylvan
and the learning centers,

and sometimes this starts
really young,

like with Brilliant Babies,

and the problem is this,
what you're sending the message

to the kid is,
"You cannot do this alone.

We need to help you."

- So what unit
is this first mark?

- One.

- Good, and what's the value
of the second one?

- The reason that kids
are seeking tutors

is because we are teaching
the majority of our kids

as if they were in the top 2%.

You'll see that at every level.

Everything has been pushed down,
and we're really putting kids

under a great deal
of pressure to be there.

When the kids feel like
they're under pressure,

the parents are even worse.

They feel a huge amount
of stress.

"Is my child
where they should be?

What's everybody else doing?"
There's a huge worry.

- Zakary started feeling
at the beginning of fourth grade

like he was disappointing
his teachers,

like he wasn't measuring up to
what they were expecting of him.

- He started developing
headaches and stomachaches.

There were nights
that he came home this year

with math homework
that I could not help him with.

It was clear that he was getting
really frustrated.

It was suggested that he start
working with a tutor,

but he spends
seven hours a day at school,

and then we're asking him
to do more sitting at a desk

after school with a tutor

and then to come home to another
hour or two of homework.

That's not how I want to see

Zakary spending
his young years,

but I didn't want Zakary,
in fourth grade,

to convince himself
that he wasn't good at math,

and my worry for him is that,
if, at age ten,

he's already convinced himself
that he's not good at anything,

how is he going to get back
to a place where he's excited

about learning
and where he feels confident

in his abilities?

- So you multiply by three,
so what's it gonna be?

How many groups of three?

- Mmm...

I'm not sure yet.

- My worry is he'll rebel
and he'll check out,

as so many of the boys
that I've met have done.

- When I want to school,
a very small number of kids

were expected
to be really super smart,

and they went on
to great colleges.

Now every kid is expected
to be that way.

That's just not
the way it works.

There's a bell curve, and smart
has many different meanings,

so there's academically smart,

there's kids
who are incredibly creative.

There are kids who are totally
hands-on kinds of kids,

and we're ignoring
this great group of kids

because we're so focused
on this narrow group

of highly achieving kids,

and we're trying to turn them
all into that.

- We know it's absolutely
developmentally appropriate

for some kids
not to be proficient readers

until the end of first grade,
beginning of second grade,

but we have schools now
who are told they must have kids

proficient in reading
by the end of kindergarten

or they go to
a mandatory literacy camp.

You can send them
to literacy camp,

and they can get completely
turned off to reading

because they
are literally not ready.

- Even younger, you know.

When you're doing flash cards
with your six-month-old...

- Good job.

- Your six-month-old
is supposed to be

sucking on his toes and thumbs,
and there's reasons for that.

It's not just mindless work.
It's learning about their body.

All along the way, we're missing
the developmental tasks

with this tremendous
preoccupation with performance.

- This issue of perform
and produce, perform, produce,

produce, produce,
produce, perform,

produce leaves out processing.

- Because of how much pressure
and how much stress

is put on getting that A

so that you can get into
an Ivy League school,

people don't know how
to deal with that besides,

like, cheating.

That's what they have
to result to,

because you're getting, like,
five hours of homework a night,

and you just can't-
you can't do it.

- We have a study where
there's eight different ways

to cheat on our study.

Copying homework is one of them,

cheating off of a test,
plagiarism, et cetera.

In our study, less than 3%
of the 5,000 students

have never cheated.

- Cheating has become
another course.

You learn how to do it from 9th
to 12th grade,

and it continues,
and you get better at it.

- I ended up getting a B
in a class, and then I cheated,

and it really ended up
backfiring on me,

but a lot of people-
and I learned my lesson,

because I was caught
and et cetera,

but a lot of people
in this school aren't caught,

and there is a very high level
of cheating going on.

- Kids cheat
for a lot of reasons.

Most of the time, it's because
they have too much work to do

and too little time to do it,

or the pressure on them
is so great,

they feel like they need to get
the grade by hook or by crook,

but we also have kids
who are cheating

because they think the teacher
doesn't care.

"It's busy work.

Why can't I just copy
my homework?"

- How are you expected to learn?

Like, how do you expect us
to do well

when you can't even
make mistakes?

And it just motivates you
to cheat more.

- We're producing children who,

all they know how to do
is cut corners and cheat.

I mean, look around
at the business world

and what we've done, okay,

because we were cutting corners
and we were cheating,

and we're gonna
pay the price for it.

We are paying the price for it,

financially, right now
in the country.

- The point of education
is to learn, not to memorize.

That's when you have to resort
to cheating or stressing,

you know, your sleep and
sacrificing your love to eat.

You're just molding yourself
and buying into the thought

of being a better worker,

that I'm teaching myself to
be able to live without sleep,

to be able to live
without eating,

to be able to live
with some bald guy yelling at me

to do his work.

I've got this message
where because I'm black

and because I'm living
under the poverty line,

you know, there's so much
expected of me to excel

and try to be more mobile
in terms of status in society,

you know, and that too much is
riding on my grades, you know?

That outside of sports,
education's the only way I can,

you know, earn money,
and, you know, live a happy,

you know, American life.

Yeah, there goes me
being funny again.

This is my older brother Justin,
my older sister Courtney,

and my little sister Ashley.

There's me, my second
oldest brother Cameron,

who's actually
in the military right now.

I think he's serving a tour
in Iraq, and my mother.

Middle school, I was, like,

the dude to go to if you needed
help with your math work.

Like, I was a 4.0 student.

But now that you come
to high school,

it's been really hard
in high school.

It's been really hard.

My counselor said,
"if you want to be competitive,

"you know, if you want colleges
to look at you, you know,

taking the AP classes is
a big thing on your transcript,"

and the transcript is almost
as if it's a resume for us.

You know, going to college
is like a job.

The harder my classes are,

not only does it mean
the more looks I will have

but also the wider range

of scholarships I can apply to,
you know.

Being an African American

and taking AP classes
is what people are looking for.

People want to give money to me
and colleges want to accept me,

'cause they,
especially in California,

are having a model of being,
you know, diverse campuses.

In the past four years...

I've done a lot of cheating.

The homework given by AP or
honor classes is time-consuming,

so you can't stay up, you know,
11:00, 12:00,

1:00 in the morning
doing homework each night.

I know that I want the A,
I want that B,

I want that 3.5, that 3.8,
that 4.0, and then this year,

I'm now taking
an AP government class,

and I've gotten a D
every marking period,

and even though it's bad
to see it, it's all me.

When I got that D,
I couldn't cope.

I wanted to get
out of the class so bad.

I felt so ashamed.

And I wouldn't say
I wanted to resort

to dropping out of school,

but I was really close
to not caring anymore.

Existentialism means
pertaining to existence

or it can also apply to a vision

of condition
and existence of man.

Well, right now,
we are at Youth Radio,

one of the studios
broadcasting the show

that I co-host with my friend.

Youth Radio is a media-based
nonprofit organization

that provides youth
such as myself an outlet

to voice our opinions
and thoughts.

We have another break.

I'm gonna try to come on

and deal with this
and get back to you guys.

Doing Youth Radio for
about 18 months, and I love it.

The biggest challenges for me
going from high school

into college would be financial,

whether or not
I can afford college

and whether or not
I'm academically prepared,

and I just have a fear
that I'll spend all this money

just to fail, you know?

That I'm gonna be
at a high level of learning

and not be prepared to...
be there.

- In order for students to have
a more valuable experience

from their high school years,

they're gonna have to decide,
you know,

"I don't need to take
five AP classes.

"Here are some classes
I'm really interested in taking.

"I'm gonna take
AP English

because I really
enjoy literature."

A majority of my students will
sign up for my AP biology course

because they get a GPA boost
on their transcript.

The course is a runaway train.

There's no way we can cover all
of the material in one year.

It's impossible.

What do we do?
We go as fast as we can.

And the students absorb
some of it, maybe.

- High school now
has become preparation

for the college application,
not even for college,

just the college application.

And it creates a mentality

that was expressed very well
by my daughter.

After her French AP test,
she said,

"I never have
to speak French again."

- I don't think
what I'm learning

will help me that much
in my college classes.

I think that college is gonna be
a place where I start to learn.

- I'm never really thinking hard

about the meanings
of any of this.

I'm just thinking about
how to get done.

- Because the standards
are organized

in sort of component skills,

they often lead to teaching
which is very fragmented,

sort of compoted teaching.

"We can check this off now.
We've done this in the class."

It also reinforces

what Americans
are often criticized for

in their education system,
of having an education system

that's a mile wide
and an inch deep.

Whereas, if you really think
about what adults need

to be successful in life,

it's not knowing
a whole bunch of things.

It's really having
critical thinking skills

and analytic skills,
being able to learn.

- I've been teaching
graduate school

and medical school and dental
school for over 30 years.

In the last decade or so,
they have this entitlement

that they need to know exactly
what's gonna go on the test

and not have to think about
anything beyond that.

So what is that going to mean

when we have a whole population
of dentists and doctors

who've been being trained
from a script?

How are they going to approach
new diseases

as they emerge
in our populations?

How are they going
to diagnose people

who have the nontraditional,
non-scripted kind of illnesses?

- We've created
a couple of generations now

that have grown up
in a world of training wheels,

and when you always have
training wheels on your bike,

you don't have this opportunity
to fall off

and realize that you
can pick yourself up

and dust yourself off
and you're gonna be okay again.

- Fire it in there.
- Kick it low. Kick it low.

- They have been coached
from the time

they were very, very young.

They were coached
by T-ball coaches,

by their soccer coaches.

They have been coached
by their parents.

They have been coached
by their teachers,

and in my experience,
they are very much looking

for their employers to provide
the same levels of coaching.

- Make sense? Okay.
So anything else?

- I'm sure there will be.
- Okay. Yeah. I'm right there.

- Thank you very much.
- No problem.

- The longer I was a lawyer,

I felt like the kinds
of newer lawyers

that were coming into the office
or the kinds of students

who were my interns
didn't seem to have

the same kind of thinking skills
as the ones from years earlier.

They seem to be so focused on,
"How many cases do you want,

"and how many paragraphs
should I write,

and what should I cite?"

rather then going out there
and saying,

"This is the problem,

and how am I gonna find
the answer to the problem?"

- Kids are our future.

These are many of our leaders,
and without creativity,

they're not gonna be prepared
to lead us,

and the bottom line is that
what creates the opportunity

to be innovative is to say,

"I'm gonna think
outside this box,

"and if I get a C,
that's all right.

Maybe he just
doesn't get it yet."

Maybe he just
doesn't get it yet."

- We are known
for being innovative thinkers,

and I think it's because
we had time,

or we used to have time
as children to be bored,

and it's really important
just to have that downtime.

- Every minute of
our kids' days are scheduled.

They go from spending
their days in school

to their structured activities
after school

to hours of homework
in the evenings.

The only unstructured time
seems to be the time

they spend on their computer.

I worry about the addictive
nature of the time

they're spending
on the computer,

and I worry about the isolation.

- If we take play
away from childhood,

we're taking away the very tool
that has always worked

to have kids figure out
how to exist in the adult world.

- Play is children's work.

Play for older children teaches
them the rules of the game,

teaches them that all structures
have rules around them.

Play is just a critical part

of a growing mind
and a growing body.

- I feel like I've missed out
on a lot of my childhood

because I've been
inside doing homework

instead of being able to go out
and play in the street,

draw on the street with chalk,
and I think that's sad.

I think that the teachers

are slowly
taking away your innocence,

and what you have as a child,
you're not gonna ever, you know,

have a chance to get back.

- I think what's happening
to kids these days is,

they're not being allowed
to find what it is

that they love to do,
and it's really important,

because we're driven
by our passions.

To be successful,

you have to really, really love
what you're doing.

- If you're four
and you're resume building,

if you're eight and you're
resume building,

you lose all of that time,

the wonder,
the joy of childhood,

which should be full of zest
and adventure

and, you know,
sort of a joie de vivre,

and I think it's lost
for these kids.

- A lot of people say
that you have to do well now

so you can get
into a good college someday,

but I'm in third grade,
so I have a long time.

- We don't have time
for you to be a child.

We just don't have time.
You're playing.

No time for play.
It's about business.

You have to get into
a good school.

No school other than a good
school is gonna be good enough.

- This is
a numbers-driven society.

We have ratings
of all of the colleges,

and those ratings are largely
driven by numbers.

- Every school has
to have a good yield.

They have to show their donors,
you know,

so that their endowment
continues to grow,

that they are recruiting
amazing kids.

- College now
is more competitive

than it has ever been,
partly because we have a bulge

of the children
of the baby boomers.

They are in a very
competitive situation,

but they don't have
to make students feel

like they have to go to Stanford
to be happy or Yale or Harvard

or some of the other
handful of schools.

It's like going through
the eye of the needle

to get into these schools now.

- For those who don't
get into their dream school,

that rejection letter
is like death.

If you don't get
into a four-year university

and you're going
to a junior college instead

or a community college,
it's, like-

there's such a stigma
around that.

It's like you're not
good enough or...

- You're stupid.
- You're not rich enough.

- The world is really run
by C students.

You start looking at top CEOs
across the country,

and few of them
were from top schools.

Few of them were the top grads.

They're just people who were
very, very persistent.

- The notion that there
is a best school,

it goes against everything

that educators and psychologists
and psychiatrists know.

There is no best anything.
It's a match between children.

- College is really,
at this point in time,

it is big business,
and I think that colleges

have gotten so savvy and have
really become major companies

that are selling their wares
and their goods to kids,

because the more kids
apply to schools,

that's going to increase
a school's reputation.

Now we have over 48,000 students
who are applying,

and we're only gonna
accept 12,000

to enroll about less than half
of that number.

The average weighted GPA
is a 4.35,

but the average
unweighted GPA is a 3.87,

so I say that to tell you,
of course,

we're gonna always take
the top students

who have taken
every AP and honors course,

college-level course
that they possibly can.

I feel that I've been
a perpetrator of the madness

in a sense,
because I've gone out,

and I've told kids, you know,

"You've got to take this AP,
this, you know, honors.

"You have to take
as many as you can,

"because we want to see
if you've taken total advantage

"of the opportunities
that are available to you

at your high school,"

and I don't think that we really
realize the pressure

and the stress that
is on these kids to perform.

We just know what the ultimate
goal is that we want,

and we want the top students,

because we are
a top institution,

but I wonder sometimes,
at the expense of what?

- So this is
a really striking statistic.

The University of California,

which is a tough school
to get into,

and Cal State schools
in California,

you need B average
for the state schools;

you need, sometimes,
over a 4.0 for the UCs.

They have to remediate 50%
of their admits.

What that means is,
almost half of the kids

who get into
the University of California

have to retake basic high school
level math or English

just to get to where they need
to be as university freshmen.

So how are they getting
these really high GPAs

and yet not being college ready?

They're doing school.
They're cheating.

They're spitting back but
not retaining the information,

and the schools
are not teaching, necessarily,

in a way that's preparing them
for college work.

- In high school,
I was definitely doing school.

I was in a situation

where I wanted to get
a good grade on a test,

and what that meant was learning
everything I needed to learn

the night or two nights
before the test

and making sure
that I could memorize it

and throw it back down
on a test,

and I would-l can't say
that more than two weeks later,

I knew what the information was,

but I know that I got
a good grade on that test.

When I got to college,

I was burned out
from high school.

Freshman year
was very difficult,

just adjusting to a new level
and knowing that no longer

was I getting ready for tests
like I was in high school.

I actually really had to know
this information inside and out,

and, you know, my grades
didn't reflect that I knew that,

and I ended up
getting really sad about it.

- I think there's a lot of sort
of hidden depression on campus.

I think a lot of students

will maybe secretly
take a quarter off,

or they'll take a quarter off

and only tell
their closest friends.

I've had a couple friends
do that,

and when they're here,
you have completely no idea

that they're
this stressed out or depressed.

- We have folks that are going
in the psych ward.

My dad works
at a psychiatric hospital

in Berkeley, California.

He said,
"I know when finals are.

I always know when finals are,
because we have to clear-

"we get all-our beds start
to fill up

with students
from the local university."

Parents come in and say,

"Well, they need to get up
and go do their work."

And my dad's like, "They can't."

"Well, they were a good kid."

No, they were a good performer.

You never knew
if they were a good kid.

You never found out if they were
a good, solid kid.

You knew they were
a good student.

- I would get very good grades

in elementary school
and junior high.

I was considered
to be very intelligent,

and my parents expected me
to get straight A's

and go to
a very prestigious college.

I was a cheerleader, a gymnast.

You know, I've played sports,
like, every year of my life.

I was getting my academic honors
diploma to graduate.

I had been working
really hard for that

up until my sophomore year,
and a teacher-

I've never been good in math,
and I needed his help.

I came in after school,
and he wouldn't help me,

so I failed that class and lost
my academic honors diploma,

which, you know, I needed,

'cause I wanted to go
to a really good college.

I wanted to make
my parents proud,

and so after that was gone,

I kind of gave up and stopped
attending school regularly.

It was definitely a huge blow
to my self-esteem

that I did not get the grade
that I wanted in math.

I had a tutor.

I was trying so hard,
and I still couldn't do it,

so I stopped trying, because if
you don't try, you can't fail.

I just thought everything that
I worked so hard for was over,

so it was really hard for me
to get up in the morning

and go to school.

My mom was worried about me
being expelled,

because I wasn't
going to school,

so she checked me
into a stress center

where I went for two weeks all
day until it got under control.

- I hope that taking some
of the pressure off

of Allison going to college
helped her make some progress.

Just because you don't
go to college

doesn't mean
you're a failure for life.

There's other options.
Maybe you go part-time.

Maybe you wait a couple years.

It's not the end of the world
if you don't fit the same mold

as everyone else.

So I'm glad if that helped her.

I wish I could help her more.
I just don't know how exactly.

- I am very disappointed
that there's no artistic,

right-brain kind of measurement
of talent and knowledge.

The SATs are about English
and math.

There's no standardized test
for art or just different ideas.

There's absolutely
no appreciation for that kind

of interest or thinking
or talent or knowledge.

I think success in America

is definitely defined
by how much money you've made,

not by how happy you are
with your life.

I mean, I just felt this
enormous pressure to grow up

and get a really big house,
but I don't know.

That's just not how it is
in other countries.

They're like, "Oh, okay,
so they have a modest living.


But here it's like, "Okay,
well, if you don't earn

a lot of money,
something went wrong."

- The reason why kids want
to go to great colleges

is to get a great job
and to make a lot of money,

and I think people place
so much emphasis on making money

and watching TV and seeing
all the famous people

with their huge houses,

and everyone wants to be that
and have all of that,

and that's not really

what's gonna make people happy
in the end.

I think the whole culture
just kind of needs to revise

what is important
and what is not.

- The environment and
the culture is so competitive

that kids don't ever feel
they can let anyone

really see their true selves.

You can go online very easily
and start to understand

how success is defined
in our culture.

Part of it, I do think,

is this media
and technology-driven culture

where kids are creating
these identities online,

whether through Facebook or I.M.

or through
their YouTube accounts,

and it's very easy for them

to compare themselves
to their peers.

Kids are so trained
to say everything is good

and to look a certain way.

- It's hard for parents to see

when their children
are having difficulty.

It's not easily observable
when kids are in trouble now.

You go down
to the local supermarket,

and everybody's on line
talking about how fabulously

their kids are doing,

and I know it's not true,

'cause I see
a lot of their kids,

so, you know, there's, again,

even with the adults
in this community,

there's a tremendous need
to look as if, you know,

all is right with the world,

and that's really not
what community is about.

Community is like family.

You have to be able
to be who you are.

- I think we live in a culture

where all of us are trained
to say everything is good.

Jamey had been struggling
for a long time

and not letting anyone
really know.

She was feeling really bad
about herself.

- When a teacher tells me
that they don't like the grade

that I'm getting in that class,

it makes me feel kind of like
I'm not that smart.

- When this
all started happening

and I would go
into Jamey's school to say

that Jamey's struggling
and she's having these issues,

the response
I'd get over and over again is,

"She looks fine to us."

I so often was made to feel
like I was the only person

experiencing these issues
and that everybody else's kids

were doing soccer and juggling
their homework just fine.

- Recently, the stress
has been so bad at school,

sometimes I would come home
feeling really sick,

and one night I went to bed
at 5:00 p.m.,

and I didn't wake up
until the next morning.

- When Jamey was having
a really hard time

going to school one day,
you know,

I was trying to talk her
through it and said,

"We have to find a way
and a school

"that's gonna work for you,

because you have a lot of school
ahead of you,"

And her answer to me was,

"That's why I don't want
to live anymore,

"because I think about all
of the school

"that I have and how much
anxiety I feel being at school,

and I don't want to do that."

The doctor that we saw
in December, the pediatrician,

told us that we weren't getting
the same Jamey back.

And so I worry about that,

because I worry about-
for Jamey-

Jamey feels really
frustrated and angry,

and she doesn't always have
the ability to look long-term

and say, "Okay, this is
a really bad time,

"but I'm gonna get through this,

and there's still really good
times to look forward to."

- There's an increase in suicide
for the first time in decades,

a significant increase,
particularly among young girls.

We're seeing the fallout
of many things.

You know, you can never say

suicide is simply
about pressure,

but we do know that pressure

makes kids anxious
and depressed.

We do know that depression
leads to suicide,

and there's a higher rate and
a very worrisome acceleration

of suicide in this country.

I think we need
to pay attention to it.

- Devon, in sixth grade, she was
my very first lab partner.

I thought that she was
probably just,

like, the most perfect person,

and there were times
where I thought,

"Wow, I wish I was like Devon,"

'cause she is someone who was
just really good at everything.

What I noticed about her
was her great talent in music.

She played violin, and she also
played piano in jazz band.

I only realized she died
at the funeral.

I felt like she was gonna walk
through the door.

- Everything seemed
so very normal,

and the difficult thing is,
in many ways,

I thought I knew Devon
really well,

and, well, Scott would say,

"I don't know
what's going on with her."

I'd be like, "I do.

I was that child."

Scott actually went
to the school counselor,

and he said,
"I don't know my daughter.

What's happening?"

They said, "Oh, it's being 13."

And they're like,
"Oh, get used to that.

You've got another
five years of this."

So honestly,

we thought everything
was very, very normal.

Both: Eight, nine, ten.
- Jump!

- She always got great grades,

and she always
learned things easily.

Until you get to a certain age,
and it's just tough,

so even for smart kids,

I think sometimes
they put pressure on themselves.

If you've always had A's,
there's only one way to go,

and it's down, and so that B
feels like a failure.

Devon had always
been very good at math.

She really wanted
to be in advanced math,

and she did start
having a difficult time.

This was eighth grade algebra,

and she went
from having 100% to-

she came home one day,
and she said,

"I had this test,
and I got an F,"

and it was hard for her.

The weekend before she died,

she was literally
gonna be doing math homework.

That's what she was gonna be
doing on the Saturday morning.

You think that with suicide
that there are signals.

People tell you
there are signals.

I mean, they've said,
"Well, was she doing this?

"Was she doing-
did she give everything away?

Was she-
were there mood swings?"

And the answer to all
of those questions were no,

and that's what made it and
continues to make it so scary.

I looked at every phone call,
every email, every chat to say,

"What did we miss?

How could I possibly
have let this happen?"

And the only thing
I can think of is,

she did have
this internal pressure.

She was torn up about this math.

She was torn up about-
"I can't do it."

And here is a child who
had always been so successful

on so many fronts,
and a stupid math grade.

All I know is, it's a lot harder
being a teenager

than I think it ever was for us,

and whether it's grades,
whether it's, "Are you popular?

Are you fitting in?"

l just - l don't know.

- Seeing how Jamey had changed
from being a happy-go-lucky kid

to not being able to
get out of bed in the morning,

it became clear we needed
to change her school.

Right now, for me, success
is just getting her health back.

- At the new school, I was
really excited to get there,

and then a few weeks later,
I guess I figured out-

like, it clicked
that it was still school

and I still had to do
lots of work,

so now I'm still
kind of stressed out.

- I started to wonder whether
when I was trying to ensure

that my kids had
a stable and secure future,

we had gone too far
in one direction

and had been doing
more harm than good.

It's only after you've been
a parent for a while

that you can look back and say,

"I wish I had this
to do over again."

Doug and I have implemented
a lot of changes in our home.

We don't ask about homework.
We don't ask about grades.

We advocate at our kids' schools
for less homework

and more time
to play after school.

We've always made sure
to have family dinners together.

I really hope that these things
have a positive impact

on our kids and the way
they feel about their childhood,

and yet, it's really hard
to do this alone.

- We have an opportunity
to change the way

that we conceive
of being successful for kids,

and it takes bravery.

You're swimming against
the popular culture.

You're swimming
against the stream.

- Why did we want
to start a school?

First of all, you start with,
you've got to be crazy, okay?

So we qualify there.

Our question is,
why can't we have children

who love going to school
all the way through 12th grade?

Why can't we have happiness
be as important a metric

as reading skills
and math scores?

It's something
about respecting the child

in a different way
than our existing system.

The idea of having a kid
sit at his desk

with his hands folded
staring out for X number

of hours a day
just being so antiquated.

- Then, Charles,
what's going on up here?

- That's the blue guy's

- These kids come to the table
with this creativity

and this drive and this love
of life and love of learning.

Let's just not
take it out of them.

How about that?

- The model that we're using
at Blue School

really takes the best practices

that exist
in many different contexts.

We looked a lot at Reggio Amilia
and emerging curriculums,

so a lot of the theories
and the threads

that our teachers explore come
from the children themselves.

- We want our kids
to be great readers.

We want them to be able
to do math at high levels.

It's just, how do you get there?

- We're also looking
at Howard Gardner's

multiple intelligence theories
and infusing a lot of values

of creativity
and entrepreneurial thinking,

and then, of course, the social
and emotional component,

which is, you know,
one of the core values

that we have at our school.

- The schools of tomorrow
may not resemble a lot

of what they looked like
the past 100 years,

but, hey, the world
is not resembling

what it looked like
the last 100 years either.

- So our first task, I think,

is for people
to really understand

that we have
a very serious problem

and that the economic future
of the country,

the well-being of the country,
depends on our addressing this.

The second thing I think
they have to understand

is that it's not an easy fix.

It's not fine-tuning this

or an extra year
of teacher training

or teach for America or KIPP
or vouchers

or any of the things,
which all of which

may contribute to the answer

but none of which alone
is going to be the solution.

- It's the complexity
of the problem

that people
get overwhelmed with.

You know, we could fix it,

but it requires really being
willing to do a lot of things

pretty close together
and change our culture

in some pretty substantial ways

and our expectations
and put large resources in.

- There's a school in Wyoming
that abolished homework

after reading
the two homework books

that came out two years ago.

The elementary school principal
just read them.

She thought, "That makes sense,"
and she did it.

She started with a trial period,
and then it worked so well

that she just eliminated
homework for K through five.

So I think that an educator
has an ethical responsibility.

I think a parent
has a responsibility

to really care
about the child's physical,

mental, emotional well-being,

and so they have
to stand up for them,

'cause they can't
stand up for themselves.

- All over the country,

there are parents
that are fighting this.

You know, there are schools
who have eliminated AP courses.

1/3 of the colleges in America
have now either eliminated

the SAT or have modified
the use of the SAT.

There are changes
going on everywhere.

- It takes somebody to say,

"Maybe we'll stop grading
the kids, you know?"

That sounds radical,
but in reality,

if you get rid of grades,

then you can really start
to assess what students know,

and you can really start
to think about education

as more than just a grade.

- Why can't there
be something like that,

where you're evaluated
by students, teachers,

the principal, and there's sort
of a compilation of sort of

what you've done
and what you've accomplished,

a portfolio system.

- You can put as much money
as you want into schools,

but if you don't change
the ideology

of what makes
a good educational system,

what type of individual
are we trying to create?

If you don't prioritize,
you know, classes,

that do character development,

that give kids free time,
unscheduled time,

if you don't prioritize
making cities safe enough

so that parents can let
their kids have unscheduled time

to roam around
in the first place-

taking the responsibility
for raising kids

out of advertisers'
and corporate hands,

giving parents
more time off work.

It's a social issue.

- The biggest thing
that needs to change is,

we need to look at kids
as individuals,

and we need to redefine
success for kids.

You know, I have two wonderful,
early teenage daughters.

I got to tell you
that I have anxiety sometimes

because I'm like,
"So they're really happy,

"but are they gonna still get
into the good college?

Am I making a mistake?"

I'm having trouble with this,

and I'm writing books
on this stuff.

The reality is that we can
create a system

that will still educate
our kids,

educate our kids better,

without stressing them as much.

We have to get off
this treadmill together.

We need to really think,
"What does it take

to produce a happy, motivated,
creative human being?"

- I think music is good
for anybody.

Any type of artistic activity
is healthy.

I plan to, like,
be a teacher and then, like,

kind of do this on the side
as a hobby.

- A couple weeks ago,
there was a homework-free night

at Zakary's school,

and it was like having
a different kid on my hands.

He was excited.
He could go out and play.

And later that night,
he commented to me

that if every day
there wasn't homework,

he would love school.

- Letting Sam choose
to leave Sam Ramon High School,

it was hard.

It was harder for me
than it was for him.

He knew he was gonna
graduate from high school.

He knew he was gonna go
to community college.

So he's going now to Venture,

which is an alternative
public school.

It's self-study, where they
meet the teacher once a week.

I think the fear is there that
if they don't take that path,

they may stray,

but then sometimes straying
is what they need to do.

- If everything goes wrong,

there's still something I can do
to get where I want to be.

Learning that took a long time

and a lot of visits
to the hospital,

a lot of therapy,
but it was definitely worth it.

I'm really happy
now not having to worry

about what other people
think of me

and what kind of success
I'm supposed to achieve.

- I took a couple years off

after high school
before starting college.

I'm actually applying to college
as a freshman this year.

A lot of my friends were
burned out after high school,

but they went straight
to college,

and I'm finding that
a lot of them are dropping out

to take their time off now.

- When our son comes home
from school now,

where in the past,
we would have said,

"What homework do you have?"
and so on,

I deliberately ask him,
"So how was school?"

And he'll tell me all the work,
and I'll say,

"What did you have for lunch,
and who did you play with?"

and try to put the focus
in an entirely different area,

because otherwise,
it's all about the math test

and the homework,
and we forget about being a kid.

♪ - When I was a child ♪

♪ Everybody smiled ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ Very late at night ♪

♪ And in the morning light ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ Now I got lots of friends ♪

♪ Yes, but then again ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ Kids and a wife ♪

♪ It's a beautiful life ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ And, oh, ♪
♪ when the lights are low ♪

♪ Oh ♪

♪ With someone I don't know, ♪
♪ oh ♪

♪ I don't give a damn ♪

♪ I'm happy as a clam ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ Ah, what can you do ♪

♪ There's nobody like you ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ I know how you feel ♪

♪ No secrets to reveal ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ Very late at night ♪

♪ And in the morning light ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪

♪ Nobody knows me ♪

♪ Nobody knows me ♪

♪ Nobody knows me at all ♪