More than 1,000 mothers, fathers, kids, grandparents and educators attended screenings of the film "Race to Nowhere" this week in Lexington.
Members of the Collaborative to Reduce Student Stress stood outside the auditorium at Friday morning, welcoming viewers and passing out literature to announce the at
"What we think is necessary is cultural change; it can't just be parents acting alone," said Lynne Weygint, director of religious education at First Parish of Lexington and a member of the Collaborative. "I think we see this as the beginning and the follow-throughs on the discussions will happen next [school] year."
Inside the auditorium, men, women and even a few children filled the floor, while another dozen or so scattered around the balcony to take in the documentary that features exacerbated and confused students, concerned educators and parents pushed to the brink of helplessness.
The idea, members of the collaborative have said, is to further dialogue around the critical issue of student stress, which has been a topic addressed in Lexington and communities around the Commonwealth and the rest of the country.
From high school cutters and insomniacs to a carrot-topped 10-year-old crying because he was afraid of disappointing his parents and teachers because he was no good at math, the individual accounts came one after another after another.
Spliced among the students' stories were educators talking about how high school prepares students for college applications (as opposed to college) and standardized testing misses the point that employers value the ability to think critically over the ability to correctly use a semicolon.
When six-month-olds are using flash cards, they should be sucking their thumbs and toes -- and there's a reason for that, one educator said, adding that preoccupation with proficiency is hampering developmental skills.
But things are changing everywhere, said the film's narrators, just before introducing the family of a young girl who completed suicide shortly after failing a math test.
One educator interviewed in "Race to Nowhere" advocated for getting rid of grades for young students, and another said teachers and administrators must look at kids as individuals and remember that getting into the "best" college is not as important as getting into the college that's the best fit for the student.
The screenings -- held on Thursday night and Friday morning for the public and on Wednesday for teachers and administartors -- were meant to be a precursor for the facilitated community conversation scheduled for next week, but few viewers felt like waiting.
Small groups popped up after each showing, from the math teachers who reportedly sequestered themselves in a classroom after seeing the film on Wednesday to the handfuls of women who lingered long after the movie ended late Friday morning.
"The film brings up vital issues, that students don't need to be put through the amount of stress that they're under," said Mary Roberts, a Carlisle consultant who is studying how environment impacts student behavior. "This is so important that this film is being show in many communities. I've been to some of the follow-up discussions, and they're occurring amount parents of elementary school students, not just high-schoolers, and that's just so important."
According to Weygint, teachers and administrators within the Lexington Public Schools have been on board with the Collaborative's screenings of "Race to Nowhere," which were sponsored by local parent teacher associaitons.
"They have been very supportive," she said. "The question is, 'How do you make a school system work for everyone?' And that's really tough."
The facilitated community conversation is scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. on May 5 at