Lian on The Race to Nowhere

Jun 10, 2010

Pasadena writer Lian Dolan is not only a Satellite Sister and the author of the upcoming novel Helen of Pasadena—she also writes for And her latest piece about the documentary Race to Nowhere, which screened recently in South Pasadena to sold-out crowds, hits home big time in our community, which is packed with high-pressure private schools and several elite college-prep public schools. My family chose an elementary school that takes a holistic, no-standardized-testing, embrace-learning-for-learning’s sake approach… but then those kids all have to go on to high school, and the pressure mounts no matter what you do. My 17-year-old is about to spend her fourth Saturday in another four-hour standardized test necessary for applying to college, and I had to buck her up when she was feeling bad about herself for not getting perfect As in challenging advanced classes. It’s nutty.

Here’s what Lian writes on

One of the hardest lessons to learn as a parent is to trust your instincts. You feel something is not right with your child, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Is she happy? Is she under too much pressure? Is this the way it’s supposed to be? These are all questions you might ask yourself when you see something’s off. But, despite the voice in your head, there is a whole host of people, from school counselors to medical doctors to your closest friends, who will tell you: “Everything is just fine. Don’t worry. This is normal behavior.”

That’s where mom Vicki Abeles found herself a few years ago as she struggled to determine what was happening to her own daughter, who seemed to be slipping into a shell. Their family had a life that might seem familiar to you: a complicated, filled to-the-minute schedule of school, sports and extracurricular activities….

To continue reading the piece, click here.

2 Responses for “Lian on The Race to Nowhere”

  1. I saw The Race to Nowhere in South Pas and loved it. I was glad to see a lot of educators there as well.

  2. Lian’s piece in captures beautifully one of the critical messages of the film – trust your instincts with your children. If your child is suffering and not feeling good about herself, don’t shrug it off. Be an advocate for your children and talk to other parents about the school climate we are raising our children in.



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