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'Race to Nowhere' coming to Western New York

"Race to Nowhere," one of the latest edu-mentaries, is headed this way.

This time, the issue is not charters vs. traditional public schools.

It's school-related pressure -- way too much of it -- vs. our kids. And the kids don't seem to be winning.

Vicki Abeles decided to make the film when she saw her own children suffering physical ailments because they were so stressed out over school-related pressure -- and after a young girl in her community killed herself, apparently for similar reasons.

Abeles interviews students, parents, teachers and education experts across the country to paint the picture of "the dark side of America's achievement culture."

"These kids are so over-scheduled and tired," one expert, a clinical psychologist, says in the film. "I'm afraid our children are going to sue us for stealing their childhoods."

The culprits are many, according to the film, from the intense focus on standardized test scores to society's obsession with success as defined by income -- resulting in a parallel obsession with a need to get into "good" schools. Many of the adults interviewed in "Race to Nowhere" acknowledge their own complicity in the situation.

"We're all caught up in it. We're all afraid that our kids aren't going to be able to be as successful as we are," one mom says.

With the exception of openings in a couple of major cities, the film is screening in small community settings, with each screening followed by a discussion. Abeles has said that's by design, to foster conversations that might help families and schools work toward solutions.

Locally, it's showing at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Park School, 4625 Harlem Road, Amherst. The screening is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Reservations are encouraged. Call Krista Gutzman at 839-1243, ext. 100, or contact her at

- Mary Pasciak

E-mail me at or follow me on Follow  SchoolZoneBlog on Twitter Twitter. Check out the Buffalo News' education page at

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

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Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |