A filmmaker cited in a recent Atlantic column takes issue with the author's message
Caitlin Flanagan, like so many people writing about Amy Chua's new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, not only seems to perpetuate the myth that entrance into the Ivy League is the singular key to a good job and a good life, but also posits in The Atlantic that such admission would be imminently more achievable if American mothers were less obsequious in encouraging their children's passions and more Chua-esque in facing the hard reality that children "can't have a fun, low-stress childhood and also an Ivy League education."
Flanagan claims that the "good mothers"--those more concerned with their children's health, happiness, and well-being than the Machiavellian Chua wannabes--"love ... to organize viewings of a documentary called Race to Nowhere," a film that I produced and co-directed. Race to Nowhere explores the flaws of America's lopsided, numbers-driven education system and highlights the physical, emotional, and mental toll our culture's misplaced value system is taking on our children.
While the film acknowledges that this is a complex issue for which there are no simple solutions, the majority of pediatricians, clinicians, psychologists, and authors I interviewed generally agreed that such measures as those Flanagan dismisses in her piece--limiting the number of Advanced Placement courses a child takes, prioritizing extracurriculars, protecting sleep--and generally providing a child with the developmentally appropriate latitude to be a child could, in fact, help to counter the widespread depression, anxiety, self-mutilation, and suicidal tendencies that mental-health professionals are increasingly treating in middle- and high-school students. Flanagan, in contrast, apparently sees these tactics as lowering the bar, collectively calling them "the Rutgers Solution" (which one can only deduce to mean a willingness to settle for presumed mediocrity in exchange for fewer ulcers).