Title IX: Shift in Focus from Education to Athletics

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In 1972 Title IX was passed, which is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972 stating “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance…” (OASAM).  Although this portion of the Education Amendments was not specifically aimed at fixing discrimination in athletics, Title IX became most known for and had one of the greatest effects on ending sexist inequity in sports.  In fact, the words “athletics” or “sports” were not even mentioned in this section of the amendment, which beckons the questions, when Title IX was originally debated among policymakers, how much was the focus on academics versus athletics? To what extent has this balance shifted over time, and what were its consequences?

Title IX originally came to passage in order to specifically battle gender inequity and discrimination in education. Those who advocated the enactment of Title IX spotlighted sex discrimination issues in education and the workplace such as equal pay, sex bias in school texts, and tenure track opportunities.  However, women’s athletics quickly became one of the most hotly debated topics of the 1970s and 80s shortly after the passing of Title IX. Currently, Title IX is practically synonymous with women’s athletics.  Over time, the focus of Title IX shifted from gender inequity in education to gender inequity in sport, launching a revolution in women’s athletics.

Although Title IX is widely known as a catalyst for advancements in women’s sports, the focus on athletics was unintended.  Initially, its supporters focused on the demand for gender equality in education and the workplace, with no real thought put into the question of athletics.  The impetus behind Title IX was the prevalent discrimination women faced in all aspects of the educational experience, including students, administrators, and professors.  The law was purposely designed to specifically cover the banning of sex discrimination within educational institutions because previous laws like Title VII and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not apply to education but instead focused solely on discrimination in employment (Ware, 3). These issues were discussed without mention of athletics during a 1970 hearing in the House of Representatives before the Special Subcommittee on Education on discrimination against women:

prohibit[ing] discrimination against women in federally assisted programs and in employment in education; to extend the equal pay act so as to prohibit discrimination in administrative, professional and executive employment; and to extend the jurisdiction of the U.S. Commission of civil rights to include sex. (Congress)

During these hearings and debates about the law, athletics had barely been mentioned, and Representative Edith Green of Oregon predicted in 1971 that Title IX would “probably be the most revolutionary thing in higher education in the 1970s” (Ware, 4).  Another female Representative, Patsy Mink of Hawaii, stated in hindsight, “When it was proposed, we had no idea that its most visible impact would be in athletics.  I had been paying attention to the academic issue.  I had been excluded from medical school because I was female” (Ware, 4). No one involved in the legislation and passing of Title IX could have foreseen the enormous splash it would make in the future of women’s sports.  However, almost immediately after the passing of Title IX in 1972, the switch in focus on athletics occurred for several reasons.

The idea of gender equity in athletics was originally not considered during debates leading up to the passing of Title IX because athletic programs themselves did not receive federal funding, so this issue was not seen as a likely target for enforcement.  However, since the law applied to the entirety of an institution receiving federal funds, not just a specific program, athletics fell under its jurisdiction and therefore needed to be addressed (Ware, 4).  College athletic administrators, coaches, and directors began to realize the potential enormity this legislation could have on athletics, and soon enough many ordinary Americans also began questioning the obvious gender inequity in the field of sports. The social context of the time was also crucial to the shift in thinking about women’s participation in athletics.   The Women’s Liberation Movement was at its peak, and female athletes were becoming increasingly visible in the public sphere.  Billie Jean King, a tennis icon who famously beat Bobby Riggs in a battle of the sexes tennis match, testified in congressional hearings in 1973 and became the first female athlete to ever win $100,000 in one year (Ross Edwards).  In the late 1960s, a female ran the Boston Marathon for the first time. These public acts helped inspire the argument for gender equality in athletics.

The shift from gender equity in education to athletics was also spurred by the visibility of sex discrimination in sports.  The widespread feminism of the 1960s had a great impact on equalizing athletics because for the first time, it opened the nation’s eyes to the disparities between men’s and women’s opportunities.  The sex segregation in athletics was much easier to see after the nation’s consciousness was raised by modern feminism (Ware, 2). Margot Polivy, an attorney for the American Intercollegiate Athletic Association for Women (AIAW), argued that inequality was easier to explain and understand through sport than through everyday sex role stereotyping and discrimination (Ross Edwards).  Some modes of discrimination are “subtle, almost invisible- not that in athletics” (Ware, 2).  Generally speaking, the policymakers and officials in D.C. were not the original ones pushing for more attention on women’s athletics, it was a movement from the bottom up where women’s groups and common Americans were fighting from the athletic standpoint.  For example, there was a series of court cases brought by fathers of athletically gifted daughters in the early 1970s (Ross Edwards).  However, not all men were as inclined to extend equality to women in sports as these eager fathers.

Ironically, the opponents of Title IX, mostly men, actually drew positive attention to the fight for equity in athletics through their lobbying against it.  The supporters of Title IX targeted athletics as a direct result of all the attention opponents brought to the issue.  For instance, men’s opposition caused women in AIAW to take a strong position in favor of the regulations regarding athletics sooner than they otherwise might have (Ross Edwards).  Many female athletic administrators, some of whom were originally ambivalent towards the law, began to sense its power when they saw how angry it made men (Ware, 13). The NCAA was one of the greatest original opponents of the law, and they took a strong stance against holding collegiate championships for women.  However, after they saw all the attention and progress women’s athletics had made in such a short period of time, NCAA officials decided to accept the idea of women’s sports, not out of an honest desire for equity, but because they sought profit.

The booming focus on gender equity in athletics had great success in the 1970s.  As journalist Candace Lyle Hogan observed at the time, “Fueled by an almost chemical interaction of a federal anti-sex discrimination law, the women’s liberation movement, and what is called the temper of the times, women’s sports took off like a rocket in 1972” (Ware, 7).  The number of women’s teams at both the high school and college levels dramatically raised, reaching a 66 percent increase in women’s college teams by 1999 (Simon, 4).  From 1971 to 2002, there was an 847 percent increase in high school female athletes, from 294,015 participants to a whopping 2.7 million participants (Simon, 4).  The period from 1972 to 1981 witnessed the greatest growth in women’s participation and the amount of money spent on female athletic programs, but this is also relative to the extremely poor state women’s athletics was in before.  Any amount of progress feels like leaps and bounds when starting from practically nothing.  This growth, however, did not continue throughout the 1980s, and many aspects of women’s athletics saw substantial setbacks during this time period.

The 1980s is considered a stalemate in the advancement of women’s athletics for several reasons.  By 1981-1982, the AIAW, which prided itself in focusing on the “student” aspect of student-athletes, had collapsed and the NCAA had taken over women’s collegiate sports.  As author Susan Ware wrote of this turnover, “A significant chance for a different kind of women’s athletics- less commercial, more focused on education and participation, potentially less exploitative- had been lost” (Ware, 12).  Because men were accepting the new changes in athletics, they started to take advantage of the new opportunities in employment.  For instance, because of Title IX, jobs coaching women’s teams became better compensated and therefore more attractive to men, and the gap between men’s and women’s coaching salaries since the 1970s has actually widened (Ware, 15).  Additionally, most institutions merged their previously segregated athletic departments, naturally resulting with men in charge of administrative positions in athletic departments. Women had coached 92 percent of women’s teams in 1973, but by 1984 this had dropped to 53.8 percent and in 2002 it was only 44 percent (Ware, 15).  Title IX inadvertently resulted in reverse effects on employment opportunities in athletics for women during the 1980s, and female student athletes similarly suffered.

Politics had a significant influence in the backsliding of progression in women’s sports in the 80s.  Not only did the Equal Rights Amendment fail in 1982, but also the Republican takeover of presidency of 1981 proved detrimental to the civil rights cause, as Ronald Reagan attempted to scale back big government and limit federal initiatives (Ware, 14).  In specific, one court case in 1984 had the most damaging affect in enforcing Title IX.  The Grove City Supreme Court decision held that only particular college departments that received federal funds directly were subject to Title IX; therefore, if a department did not receive direct federal funding they could dismiss the ideals of Title IX (Simon, 71).  The New York Times called this a pure example of “judicial activism”, and it resulted in schools cutting recently added women’s teams and scholarships, and the Office for Civil Rights cancelled twenty-three investigations (Ware, 14).  This stalemate continued until 1988 when the Civil Rights Restoration Act was passed in Congress over Reagan’s veto, which restored the broad coverage of Title IX (Ware, 15).  This brought the future of women’s athletics back on track, but in the years to come, more consequences ensued.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, a significant problem emerged that has yet to fully disappear. Many schools were still following the methods they adopted in the 70s, which dealt with Title IX by linking participation opportunities to the proportions of male and female enrollments. In an attempt to end sex discrimination in education, many schools were admitting significantly more women than men.  In the fall of 1998, women comprised 59 percent of the student body at Providence College (Hogshead-Makar, 198).  This situation was extremely common in schools, and by 2000, 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees were earned by women (Simon, 4).  Although this was a tremendous success for women, it conflicted the original intentions of Title IX because now the scales were unfairly tilting in the opposite direction.  For example,  to keep up with schools’ enrollment proportion policies, more and more women’s teams were being added to collegiate athletic programs.  Since most schools had tight budgets, many programs cut men’s “minor” sports teams, like gymnastics and wrestling, in order to fund these new women’s teams (Simon, 72).  Many men and women alike viewed this as reverse discrimination and intolerable. One lawyer who studied the effects of Title IX called this elimination of men’s non-revenue sports “the least fair and least educationally sound means of resolving the dilemma of Title IX compliance” (Ware, 17).  This debate over funding between men’s and women’s sports continues in schools across the nation and although the practice of cutting men’s sports has somewhat diminished, it has not fully disappeared.

While athletics has historically been focused on in discussions of Title IX, advancements in gender equity in education have also had a significant impact on the learning experiences of women as well as on the subsequent job opportunities. The debate of women’s athletics has seemed to overshadow the progressions made in educational experiences of women because of the popularity of the topic of athletics and its enormous strides made in such a short time.  While the issues in women’s athletics stole the spotlight over the years following Title IX, the quest for gender equity in education and employment in education was always continuously under way and advancing- it was just more behind-the-scenes. As Nancy Hogshead-Makar, law professor at Florida Coastal School of Law and 1984 Olympic gold-medalist, noted, “Title IX is working every bit as hard in the classroom as it is on the athletic field” (Kilman).  Since its enactment in 1972, Title IX has worked to lawfully end sex discrimination in schools by requiring safe and accessible learning environments for both sexes, guaranteeing pregnant and parenting students equal opportunities, and requiring that course offerings and career counseling not be limited by gender (Kilman).  Students are also protected against sexual harassment by faculty members as well as against gender bias in standardized testing, textbooks, and in the use of technology.

Title IX and the fight for gender equity in education has seen much success, as well as many drawbacks.  Early advances were made between 1970-1975, when about 150 women’s studies programs were established across the country for the first time (Hanson, 85).  In addition to the high rates of bachelor’s degrees earned by women, today women make up 58 percent of graduate students and more than half of all medical and law students are women (Hanson, 83).  By 2004, women composed almost one half of all the teachers in two- and four-year colleges (Hanson, 83).  One of the most powerful examples of changes after Title IX is the amount of women in math and science courses, earning degrees in these subjects in record numbers.  In the mid-eighties, women earned a high of 36 percent of computer science degrees, and in 2005, women earned slightly over half of the doctorates in life sciences (Hanson, 84-85).

However, many aspects of education were negatively affected by the intense focus on sports.  For instance, recruited athletes are given special advantages in admissions despite low SAT scores, and their education is not a priority.  As the Carnegie Commission Report investigating intercollegiate athletics stated, “The defects of American college athletics are two: commercialism, and a negligent attitude toward the educational opportunity for which college exists” (Ware, 26).  This statement reigns true today, where oftentimes the opposite effect that Title IX had intended occurs with students’ ignorance towards education and excessive focus on sports.  In academics, people first blame a female student’s lack of success on her gender, race, or family income. In sports, the female athletes themselves aren’t to blame for the failure of the system to provide them with opportunities- the answer is to change the system.  This answer should also be applied to education.  High school and collegiate athletes are called “student-athletes” for a reason, where “student” takes precedence.  However, nowadays this is often not the case.

Although the focus of Title IX has been predominantly on the discussion of athletics, the fight for gender equity is just as if not more important.  Originally, the discussions of the legislation targeted educational opportunities and working to end sex discrimination in educational employment.  Despite the successes seen in education, especially higher education, for women, the successes seen in women’s athletics has seemed to overpower those advancements over the years when evaluating the effects of Title IX.  Today, women are excelling in every realm of athletics and education as a direct result of Title IX.  Although the focus of debate between education and athletics has shifted over the years, both venues are extremely important in the overall end to sex discrimination in the United States.  Full gender equity in education and athletics has not yet been met, but by measuring the progress seen thus far, equity is surely in the near future.





Works Cited

Congress, House, Committee on Education and Labor, Discrimination Against Women: Hearings before the Special Subcommittee on Education, 91st Cong., 2nd sess., 17 June 1970

Hanson, Katherine, Vivian Guilfoy, and Sarita Pillai. More than Title IX: How Equity in Education Has Shaped the Nation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.

Hogshead-Makar, Nancy, and Andrew S. Zimbalist. Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change. Philadelphia, PA: Temple UP, 2007.

Kilman, Carrie. “Beyond the Playing Field.” Teaching Tolerance no. 42 (Fall2012 2012): 29-33. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost

Pauline, Gina. “Celebrating 40 Years of Title IX: How Far Have We Really Come?” JOPERD–The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 83.8 (2012) Questia.

Ross Edwards, Amanda. “Why Sport? The Development of Sport as a Policy Issue in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.” Journal of Policy History 22.3 (2010) Project Muse

Simon, Rita J. Sporting Equality: Title IX Thirty Years Later. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2005.

Ware, Susan. Title IX: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2007. 

Ed 300 Research Proposal

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 Research Question: How did the enactment of Title IX change the academic and athletic experiences of both female and male student-athletes in colleges and universities?

Significance:  Women’s collegiate sports have progressed tremendously since the first nationally organized female collegiate competition in 1941.  The biggest advancement in women’s collegiate athletics since this time came in 1971 with the founding of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).  The AIAW, which prided itself in focusing on the “student” aspect of student-athletes, aimed to prevent unfair advantages in competition by allowing female athletes to transfer between schools and prohibiting athletic scholarships and off-campus recruiting.  The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), which strictly dealt with men’s athletics, tended to focus more on the “athlete” aspect of student-athlete and was often seen as commercially driven and known for awarding plenty of full scholarships.  In 1972 Title IX was passed, which is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972 stating “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance…” (OASAM).  Although this portion was not specifically aimed at fixing discrimination in athletics, Title IX became most known for and had one of the greatest effects on ending sexist inequity in sports.  Through Title IX, the NCAA eventually began offering championships to Division II and III female athletic teams in 1980, and to Division 1 teams in 1981, which marked the collapse of the AIAW and the NCAA takeover of women’s collegiate sports.

Title IX significantly impacted the experiences of female and male student-athletes on and off the field, mostly in a positive way but sometimes negatively.  My paper aims to answer the questions of what specific impacts Title IX had on collegiate athletics and academics, and how and why this affected both male and female collegiate student-athletes.  This topic has significance in relation to our Education 300 class because athletics are an integral part of many students’ educational and collegiate experiences.  Benefits of playing sports include growing leadership skills, increasing health and self-esteem, and adapting more responsible social behavior, which all lead to higher academic performance.  This topic is especially meaningful to me because I am a varsity college athlete here at Trinity, and I have reaped many of the benefits of playing sports throughout my whole life, especially during my college years.  As a female, without the passing of Title IX, I might never have had the opportunity as a collegiate athlete.  Playing on the volleyball team at Trinity has helped me in many aspects of my academic and social or personal life throughout college.    I think it is important to research the question of how Title IX has already impacted the experiences of student-athletes in order to continue changing inequalities in this venue.

Research Strategy:  I started my search for sources by using a general Google search under phrases like “first female collegiate athletics”, “Title IX”, and “the effects of Title IX in collegiate sports”.  These searches lead me to Wikipedia, and under Wikipedia’s sources section I was able to find a couple of relevant and useful sources.  I also used the Trinity library homepage, and under the tab “Articles” I searched by database title and chose “Education Full Text”, then hit “Go” and typed in “Title IX”.  This search provided many useful sources from which I chose a few to use.  Searching “Title IX” AND “college” was also helpful because many of the sources from the original search targeted high school athletics and academics.


Haglund, Eric. 2005. “Staring Down the Elephant: College Football and Title IX Compliance.” Journal Of Law & Education 34, no. 3: 439-452. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost (accessed April 5, 2013).

Hardy, Lawrence. 2012. “The Legacy of Title IX.” American School Board Journal 199, no. 8: 12-15. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost (accessed April 5, 2013).

Kilman, Carrie. “Beyond the Playing Field.” Teaching Tolerance no. 42 (Fall2012 2012): 29-33. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost (accessed April 5, 2013).

Lancaster, Michael . “Title IX And Its Effect On College Athletic Programs..” College Athletic Scholarships. College Scouting And Recruiting.. Web. 29 Oct. 2010. <http://www.athleticscholarships.net/title-ix-college-athletics.htm>.

McKeon, Michael. 2012. “The Law That’s Title IX.” American School Board Journal 199, no. 8: 17-19. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost (accessed April 5, 2013).

Siegel, D. “The Union of Athletics with Educational Institutions,” Athletics and Education. <http://www.science.smith.edu/exer_sci/ESS200/Ed/Athletic.htm>

Suggs, Welch. 2003. “U.S. commission on Title IX calls for protecting men’s teams.” Chronicle Of Higher Education 49, no. 25: A40. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost (accessed April 5, 2013).

Vest, Becky, and Gerald Masterson. 2007. “Title IX and Its Effect on Sports Programs in High School and Collegiate Athletics.” Coach & Athletic Director 77, no. 5: 60-62. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost (accessed April 5, 2013).

Hartford Office of Talent Management Seeks to Close Student Achievement Gap

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On Tuesday, March 5, the Hartford Board of Education gathered in the library of Hartford Public High School to hold a workshop meeting.  At roughly 5:30pm, the meeting commenced with a brief introduction and expression of gratitude from the Chairman, Matthew K. Poland, to the parents, teachers, and other observers who filled the room.  After discussing the School Climate Data Review, the Board transitioned to the Talent Management Report.  This report, led by the Hartford Office of Talent Management, aims to significantly improve Hartford public schools by employing energetic and talented educators with the intent of closing the present student achievement gap.

      Headed by the Chief Talent Officer Jennifer Allen, seven representatives from the Hartford Office of Talent Management began their presentation. She explained that as part of Hartford’s school reform initiative to close achievement gaps among students, the Human Resources Department was converted into the Office of Talent Management (OTM) in October of 2010.  As stated in the handouts available to the guests, the purpose of the OTM is to “ensure that each school is led by an effective leader and that each leader has the support to develop and retain highly qualified teachers from recruitment to induction and ultimately through their career path development”.  Allen stressed that their office aims to seek extremely intelligent and effective teachers, with a special focus on retention. The OTM will not simply look at the mechanics but at what they can offer these teachers to help guide them towards attaining greater student achievement.  She then introduces the five departments of the office, which she calls the “buckets” for the “deliverables”, or in other words the catalysts for their accomplishments.

The five departments of the Office of Talent Management include: Recruitment, Staffing, Professional Development, Performance Management, and Information Management.  Each objective was explained by a different representative of the OTM, all with different goals and intentions.  Tasha Cannon, Coordinator of Recruitment, after having already met with 44 prospects as educators for the 2012-2014 school year, noted that the most challenging and important part of her task is convincing these intelligent and qualified prospects to actually apply for positions as teachers in the Hartford public school system.

As someone who was educated in Hartford school systems, Natasha Durrant, Director of Staffing, had a unique interest in creating a culture that allows people to grow, learn, and connect in many ways.  As she explained, her job entails keeping up efficient and effective employee relations, or simply providing custom service.  One of her goals included “increasing the satisfaction of our human capital managers (principals) to 95% or better”.  The current rate of satisfaction is 85%.  After Board member Richard F. Wareing questioned how satisfaction is measured, Durrant replied that this evidence is concluded through multiple surveys given to the principals.   She noted that the current rate is 85%, and after being questioned by the Board member Richard F. Wareing how satisfaction is measured, she replied that they conclude this evidence through multiple surveys.

Joanne Manginelli, Director of Professional Learning, commented that her job is to ensure the retention of effective teachers and leader as well as assess what the children are learning and to implement an instructional core that is “supported by a rigorous curriculum… that addresses the needs of the diverse learners within the Hartford Public Schools”.  She stated, “we want to retain our ‘irreplaceables’”, or their highly valuable teachers.  Similarly, the Director of Performance Management, Scott Nicol, pointed out that one of the most important aspects of student performance is to retain teacher effectiveness. Also, increasing the number of classroom observations will help measure the credibility of a teacher and make sure he or she is effectively teaching the students.  With more accurate measurements of teacher performance, students will benefit from more effective methods of teaching and in turn be more likely to perform well in the classroom.  The most significant measurement of performance is the increase in the number of classroom observations.  Compared to last school year, when the number of required observations was 1,000, the number this year is 4,000.  They plan to require 5,000 by the 2013-2014 school year.

Guillermo Garcia, Director of Information Management, spoke about the last of the five departments.  His department’s objective is to convert the employee life cycle into an information life cycle, which would collect, process, maintain, disseminate, and archive all of the OTM’s data.  They want to create a data warehouse, which will be set up as a reporting tool to allow information from different departments to be integrated and linked.  These enhanced reporting capabilities would provide increased feedback on what needs improvement.

To end the entire presentation, Allen, the Chief Talent Officer, restores her turn with the microphone and quickly summarizes the priorities, or as she calls them the “deliverables” of the OTM.  She emphasized the need to “integrate culturally responsive pedagogy into the core instruction”, and explained how the office is “working on building a diverse talent pipeline”.  Her method of “grow your own” relates to the concept of attracting educators with Hartford roots, like the OTM’s very own Natasha Durrant, to come back and teach.  This idea is also heavily stressed in the informational video, which is more like a sales pitch, on the homepage of the Office of Talent Management’s website.

During the “questions” segment after the presentation, the OTM representatives met a bit of criticism and uncertainty from the Board of Education members.  In particular, a moment of extreme tension was felt by everyone in the room when the Chairman, Poland, expressed his disdain for the term “human capital” by naming it his pet peeve and saying it “leaves me feeling stone cold… do not call our people ‘human capital’… seems like we’re doing this for numbers and metrics, not for people…doesn’t feel right”.  His chastisement was met with Allen’s awkward understanding and follow-up defensive remark, “I hope you wouldn’t think that’s our attitude about working with people”.

After several questions regarding the rate of attrition for principals, the result of potential continuous attrition of educators, and the strategy for underperforming teachers, Manginelli vaguely responded with a strategy that included making sure these underperforming teachers have what they need to move forward and progress and to make certain that principals are participating in this process of increasing teacher performance as well.  She also noted a strategy she called “peer coaching” where educators from different schools and districts could meet and discuss ideas and methods of improving their performance.

Although this discussion did not end in a concise manner where definitive action was decided upon, the presentation and the questions asked by the Board of Education helped clarify the main goals of the Office of Talent Management for the years to come as well as the means of attaining these goals.  Manginelli pointed out that the OTM is looking forward to working toward developing a baseline, which will not begin until the 2013-2014 school year is in session.  Even though there were some discrepancies with the implementation of the Office’s goals, it is a promising attempt at future educational policy reform in the heart of Connecticut.

Race to Nowhere

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For most driven students, achieving straight As on their report cards is simply not good enough.  In this day and age, the pressure for kids to perform well in every aspect of their lives is massive.  Students are expected to get amazing grades, be the star of a sports team, have the lead role of the play, and still find time for other hobbies that make them “unique” and set them apart from their peers.  Vicki Abeles, a mother with children in elementary and middle school, saw the negative effects that this country’s flawed education system has had on her children and decided to do something about it.  Her documentary, “Race to Nowhere”, shows the unbearable stress that takes over the lives of the youth as a result of unrealistic expectations coming from every direction.

“Race to Nowhere” shows the negative consequences of the flaws in schooling and pressure from parents.  Hours upon hours of homework cause sleep deprivation, severe stress, and mental and emotional problems.  The pressure from parents to achieve perfection leads kids to resort to cheating and cramming for tests.  In schools that only value the grades on tests, students merely spit out memorized information and forget it all the second the test is over. One teacher, Darrick Smith, points out that the pressure for students to produce leaves out the processing of the information (Race to Nowhere, 41:10). Students are not truly learning, and teachers are not helping students harness their ability to critically think and be creative.  Vicki Abeles addresses all these problems in her documentary by following the experiences of her own children as well as interviewing students, teachers, parents, employers, and psychologists.  She features students of all ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses and focuses on the stories of several students that were held back by some of these problems.  Her own children have so much homework that they get headaches, lack sleep, and have no free time to play outside or hangout with friends.  Other students in the film suffered from eating disorders and emotional breakdowns, had to quit playing sports, and one young girl even went as far as committing suicide.  Abele stresses the need for significant change within schools as well as a change in the way parents approach their children.

“Race to Nowhere” is Abele’s attempt at starting an educational revolution.  She sends the message that this country needs to wake up and realize that their children are being emotionally and mentally damaged by this faulty school system, and more focus must be put on fostering happiness, creativity, and critical thinking skills within each individual.  Some of the most crucial scenes in the film really emphasize this emotional damage.  For instance, a 13-year-old girl named Devon commit suicide because of the intolerable internal pressure she placed on herself to excel in her life.  Abele interviews Devon’s mother, who chokes up as she blames the suicide on “a stupid math test” that Devon had recently failed.  Abele fills the screen with pictures of this vibrant, young girl while a mournful piano is playing the background.

Race to Nowhere (1:10:50)

A similar scene occurs when a psychologist gives a testimony about a girl who came into her office wearing a long sleeved shirt and pulls up one of the sleeves to show that she had carved the word “empty” in her arm with a razor (16:10).  The psychologist describes how so many adolescents appear happy and put together but they are metaphorically, and sometimes literally, bleeding underneath it all.  These scenes shows the vital need to keep children emotionally stable by lightening their load and taking off pressure to perform, because it can have extreme consequences if something doesn’t change.  One teacher, Darrick Smith, memorably notes that parents are always confused as to why their child is experiencing emotional problems because he or she is a “good kid”, but he remarks “No, they’re 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” (Race to Nowhere, 59:30).

At the end of the documentary, Abele lists way for students, parents, and teachers to improve the educational experiences of students.  She notes that parents should not add pressure to their children and focus more on their happiness by creating family time and reiterating the importance of play.  Instead of piling on hours of homework each night, Abele suggests that teachers should assign less homework to leave room for students’ family time and play, which would significantly improve children’s emotional wellbeing.  She also suggests that teachers find alternative methods of evaluating students besides tests and to encourage students to have more of a voice within the classroom (Race to Nowhere, 1:22:50).  More schools should be modeled after the Blue School, which institutes those methods of learning and allows children to be creative and think freely without tests and hours of homework.  However, Abele does not really offer many more solutions or alternatives to testing.  She states that there should be alternatives, but does not pinpoint any strategies.  She also does not mention any specific policy actions for viewers to participate in, besides simply attending school board or policy meetings.

According to an interview with Abele conducted by John Merrow, the documentary was intended to be viewed by all parents, students, and educators in order to spread the word and create a new atmosphere of learning.  This film has been widely recognized by its targeted audience, and these viewers have made the film popular by word of mouth, as the film has no commercial distributor. Abele claims that “this isn’t just a film; it’s a grassroots phenomenon” (Merrow).



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.

Race to Nowhere. Dir. Vicki Abeles. Reel Link Films, 2010. Web.

Finding Reviews about Video Documentaries and Avoiding Bias

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Prompt: How do you find reviews and essays about video documentaries? Describe your search strategy and cite the 5 most thoughtful reviews or background essays on a designated video documentary. Your search results may include scholarly and/or popular press, but do your best not to include those featured on the film’s companion site. (Hint: the goal of this question is to help your classmates identify thoughtful sources that do not necessarily agree with the policy stance taken by the film.) Add a brief explanation for why you recommended each of the five sources you selected.

For this assignment I met with a Trinity librarian, Erin Valentine, who significantly helped me in answering how to find thoughtful reviews and essays about video documentaries, in particular “The Cartel” by Bob Bowdon.  We began the search on the Trinity College Library homepage, and since I was looking for reviews, Erin told me to search under “Articles”.  From there, we searched by database title and chose “Education Full Text” and then hit “Go”.

On the next page, I was told to select “Choose Database” and chose a few other relevant databases such as Social Sciences full text, Humanities full text, and Readers’ Guide full text.

I then searched under “The Cartel”, but the results pertained to mainly drug and oil cartels and had nothing to do with the video documentary.  I then went back to the previous page and added the writer/director’s name, Bowdon, to the search.

Since this only provided three reviews of the film, I added the database “Film and Television Literature Index” to my search.  This also only offered five reviews, which Erin suggested was probably the result of how recent the film was made.

A few of the reviews found from that particular search proved thoughtful and informative, but not all five.  After my next search in JSTOR was unhelpful, I then targeted Google as my next method of researching.  Google News and Google Scholar both left me empty-handed, and simply searching “The Cartel Bob Bowdon” under Google mainly produced biased positive reviews from companion sites.  However, this same search led me to the Wikipedia site for the film, whose “References” section surprisingly produced the two most thoughtful and insightful reviews I found.

Interestingly enough, many of the reviews I came across found that Bowdon had the right idea in mind and agreed with his general stance, but they do not write favorably about the film.  Most reviews were harsh critiques and portrayed the film in a negative light.  This is the advantage of using reviews from databases other than the companion site because they are not biased and give both negative and positive feedback.  Below I have listed and explained the five most relevant reviews of Bob Bowdon’s “The Cartel”.

“A Digestible Lesson in Public-School Failures” by Wesley Morris

Morris takes an unbiased stance on the film, praising the message that Bowdon is trying to get across that current public school systems are corrupt and dysfunctional, but he also critiques the quality of the film itself and the righteous and condescending way Bowdon portrays himself.

 “‘The Cartel’ Sees Teacher Unions’ Grip as Crippling” by Brian MacQuarrie

MacQuarrie gives less of an opinionated account of the film and more so sheds additional light on the problems and absurdities within the public school system in New Jersey.  He seems to reiterate and agree with many of the film’s points, showing Bowdon and his film in a positive light.

“Children Left Behind” by Jeannette Catsoulis

From the New York Times, Catsoulis provides a rather negative portrayal of the film, pointing out that Bowdon merely focuses on the single state of New Jersey even though the film is supposed to be targeting the public school system on a national level.  She calls the film “a bludgeoning rant against a single state” and finishes her review by stating that the film is “visually horrid and intellectually unsatisfying…demonstrates only that its maker has even more to learn about assembling a film than about constructing an argument”.

“The Cartel” by John Anderson

Taken from an entertainment magazine as opposed to a major newspaper, this review presents the film as ubiquitous oxymoron.  Anderson argues that its central message of the dire need to change dysfunctional public school systems is undeniably correct, but Bowdon makes several crucial mistakes such as ignoring the ramifications of the No Child Left Behind act, limiting the film to New Jersey public schools when the film is supposedly of national scope, and presenting a one-sided and voiced-over interview with Joyce Powell, the president of the New Jersey Educational Association.

“Editor’s Review” by Gretchen Brion-Meisels

Brion-Meisels, an editor from the Harvard Educational Review, shines light on the tone of the movie, which she suggests points towards the idea that the culture of charter schools is more valuable than the cultures from which underprivileged and low-income students come from.  She notes that the film seemed more like a negatively charged method of propaganda towards teacher unions by simply showing failing statistics and not detailing the stories behind them.

Works Cited

Anderson, John. “Film Reviews- The Cartel.” Variety. N.p., 5 Apr. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. <http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117942538/>.

Brion-Meisels, Gretchen. “Editor’s Review.” Harvard Educational Review (2011): 751-61. Harvard Education Publishing Group, 16 Dec. 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. <http://her.hepg.org/content/106l1634k457q34v/fulltext.pdf>.

Catsoulis, Jeannette. “Children Left Behind.” The New York Times. N.p., 15 Apr. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. <http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/movies/16cartel.html?_r=2&>.

MacQuarrie, Brian. “‘The Cartel’ Sees Teacher Unions’ Grip as Crippling.” The Boston Globe. Boston.com, 25 Apr. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. <http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/articles/2010/04/25/the_cartel_focuses_on_the_stultifying_effect_teacher_unions_are_having_on_the_public_school_system/>.

Morris, Wesley. “A Digestible Lesson in Public-School Failures.” The Boston Globe 30 Apr. 2010: n. pag. Boston.com. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. <http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/articles/2010/04/30/in_the_cartel_a_condescending_lesson_in_public_school_failures/>.

A special thanks to the librarian, Erin Valentine, for helping me through my research.

Avoiding Plagiarism

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Original Text:

Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University, studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word:

Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University, studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word:

When Sean Corcoran was economist at New York University, he studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston.  While there, he discovered that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

As an economist at New York University, Sean Corcoran studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston.  His findings included that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points (Ravitch 270).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

During his time as an economist at New York University, Sean Corcoran performed studies in New York and Houston that tested each city’s teacher evaluation systems.  Among his findings of teachers in New York City, he concluded that the average margin of error was approximately 28 points (Ravitch 270).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

During his time as an economist at New York University, Sean Corcoran performed studies in New York and Houston that tested each cities’ teacher evaluation systems.  Among his findings of teachers in New York City, he concluded that the average margin of error was “plus or minus 28 points” (Ravitch 270).

Works Cited

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic Books, 2011, pp. 270

My Learning Goals

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This semester I hope to learn more about the history of education reform as well as discuss current issues within the education system in our country.  I would also like to improve my researching skills by learning how to use and source texts in our library more effectively for future research papers.  I have never formally written anything on the web, so I look forward to learning how to properly do this.