Race to Nowhere or at Least Somewhere

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For my source detective posting, I was posed with the question of finding reviews of the educational documentary “Race to Nowhere”. Initially, I read the ones found on the official “Race to Nowhere” site and found that they were all in praise of the documentary. While personally I found the movie incredibly movie, this seemed too one-sided. Upon further research, I found that many of the other reviews found the movie overly dramatic and meant to incite panic about the national education problems.

Trip Gabriel’s review of the documentary focuses on the positive effects the documentary may have yet does so without attempting to “sell” the movie out to the public. Coming from The New York times, I initially felt it would be a very objective and credible review. With further reading, I found that the greatest element of credible research he comes away with is the fact that the documentary achieved national recognition without a major ad campaign or large-scale distribution. The fact that the movie didn’t need to self-sell itself and still was adopted as credible on a national scale demonstrates it’s incredible impact.

Another positive review I found was Cynthia Joyce’s review from NBC news. The reason I chose this one was because rather than focusing on the recognition the documentary gained in the country, she focused on the message. She does mention the enthusiasm students and others had for seeing and taking about the documentary. However while doing so, she created a clear picture of the goal of the documentary: to raise awareness about the race toward “over-credentialism” and the effects of the pressure it creates.

After finding two very positive review of the documentary, I searched for a contrasting view. Jay Mathews of The Washington Post provides a very overt critique of the inaccuracies of the documentary. The focus of his critique is on the fact that the documentary doesn’t focus enough on the actual facts of the issue and rather the places a focus on the emotional problems that take place. While this may be true, the view may be short sighted because the issue of schooling can’t be analyzed purely by facts. The product that is researched when concerned with education is a child so the emotional problems that are being caused are as much a “fact” as any other statistic.

As another negative review, John Merrow highlights the narrow scope of the documentary. His critique is mainly focused on the fact that the movie demonstrates many aspects of schooling that are detrimental to the child yet it waits until the very end of the movie to show any sort of alternative schooling which, as we know, is a major portion of the national education spectrum. This review is the only negative one that I feel has merit. While I found the movie compelling and incredibly moving, I did get the feeling that it was attempting to be a scare tactic. This review shows the method in which it did so. He does spend a large portion of the article comparing “Race to Nowhere” to “Waiting for Superman” which isn’t as helpful when looking solely at this documentary. However, his critique remains accurate and thoughtful.

One thing I found when looking for reviews that weren’t listed on the official “Race to Nowhere” site is that many people adopted overly positive reviews. While the basis for the source detective post is to only post reviews that are helpful in finding objective and accurate reviews of the source, I feel that the number of dramatized and “over-kill” style review were overwhelming. For this reason I included the last of these five reviews. Ella Taylor’s review of “Race to Nowhere” is an example of the tendency to get swept up in the emotional component of the documentary and not fully analyze it. This review merely summarizes and even at times embellished the message of the movie rather than effectively convey the message to the audience.




Gabriel, Trip. “Parents Embrace Documentary on Pressures of School.” The New York Times. N.p., 8 Dec. 2010. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Joyce, Cynthia. “‘Race to Nowhere’ Targets Academic Pressures.” NBC News. N.p., 3 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41744061/ns/nightly_news/#.USgFO1qY584>.

Mathews, Jay. “Why ‘Race to Nowhere’ Documentary Is Wrong.” The Washington Post. N.p., 4 Mar. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Merrow, John. “‘Race to Nowhere:’ It’s No ‘Waiting for ‘Superman’, ‘ but It’s Honest.”The Huffington Post. N.p., 10 June 2010. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Taylor, Ella. “Mom’s Mad as Hell and Not Gonna Take It Anymore in Education Doc Race to Nowhere.” The Village Voice. N.p., 8 Sept. 2010. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.


One thought on “Race to Nowhere or at Least Somewhere”

  1. All of the recommended sources on “Race to Nowhere” are thoughtful pieces from established publications, and your reasoning for including them is sound. But carefully re-read the assignment, which asked writers to “describe your search strategy.” Specifically, the top of the Source Detective assignment page states: “[E]mphasize how your arrived at your solution. Your response will be evaluated on the depth and clarity of your search strategy and answer to the question.”

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