La Jolla Cluster group invites parents to see ‘Race to Nowhere’

By Sharon Jones

Special to the Light

Parents, teachers and high school students are being encouraged to see “Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture,” a documentary that is being shown at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at La Jolla High’s Parker Auditorium.

The film is a look at the dark side of our hyper-competitive culture: its effect on our children. It is sure to make parents think twice about their child’s academic and extra-curricular schedule. Among topics discussed are pills, plagiarism and bereavement.

The website for the film describes it as “a call to mobilize families, educators and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.”

This airing was organized by the La Jolla Cluster Association, a nonprofit organization run by parents, teachers and principals of La Jolla’s five public schools.

The film follows Bay Area film-maker Vicki Abeles’ quest to learn what made her daughter’s good friend commit suicide. Abeles co-directed the film with Jessica Congdon.

It focuses in on how the competition to get into the “best” colleges has led to widespread cheating, even among students who take AP courses, and use of pills to stay awake while doing homework late into the night. In some cases, the pressure results in psychological damage (cutting, anorexia, breakdowns, even suicide). The film is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned.)

Among those featured in the film are:

• Dr. Madeline Levine, clinical psychologist and author of the best-seller, “The Price of Privilege”

• Dr. Wendy Mogel, clinical psychologist and author of “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee”

• Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, adolescent medicine specialist, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

• Dr. Deborah Stipek, dean of the School of Education at Stanford University

• Dr. Denise Pope, co-founder, Challenge Success, Stanford University

• Sara Bennett, founder, Stop Homework

Here’s how the film is described on its website: “Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, ‘Race to Nowhere’ points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.”

Tickets are being sold online at

for $10 and will be available at the door for $15.