A Race to Somewhere

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February 21, 2011 by jbrettjacobsen

On March 15, Mount Vernon joins other independent schools such as Trinity, Lovett, Galloway, St. Martin’s and others in AAAIS to view Race to Nowhere.  A screening of the film will take place at The Trinity School at 5:30 p.m. with a panel discussion to follow at 7:00 p.m.  To date, members of the panel include the following: Alfie Kohn, nationally known educator, author, and speaker; Dr James Wagner, President of Emory University; (tentatively planned) Pearl Rock Kane, Klingenstein Center Chair; and Dr. Mark Crawford, Atlanta psychologist and author is scheduled to moderate and comment. The director of the film, Vicki Abeles, is (tentatively) scheduled to attend as well.

I encourage anyone at Mount Vernon and beyond to see the screening as well as participate in the discussion on March 15 at Trinity.  More importantly, I highly recommend that one does not view this documentary in isolation to form an opinion about the state of education in general and health of all our children in particular.  Documentaries, at times, speak to an extreme and must be balanced. Over the past several months, a great deal has been written by independent school leaders about Race to Nowhere or Waiting for Superman. While the comments have remained in isolation directed to one or the other, the discussion around the health of the country’s educational system in the 21st century has been extremely valuable.

At Mount Vernon, we decided to take it to another level.  During the months of November and December, faculty, staff, trustees, students, and parents were invited to participate in the beginning stages of the School’s strategic planning process by analyzing three well-publicized documentaries regarding American education. Dividing into three groups, participants watched Race to Nowhere, Two Million Minutes, and Waiting for Superman and afterwards compared and contrasted the films as well as discussed the implications of the films and their potential impact on the future of Mount Vernon.   Thoughtful questions, observations, and common themes emerged, and much of the analysis is synthesized in the executive summary. Perhaps more importantly though, the films started an important dialogue about the goals of education and what those goals might mean and look like for Mount Vernon’s future.

We must constantly reflect and remind ourselves that the work that we do matters.  Ultimately, it must count for something.  It must mean something as we invest in the lives of students.  In return, our students will demand from educators and parents that their work is meaningful and counts for something.   Being a school of the future instead of a school of our past is only the beginning to challenging the process.


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Dr. Brett Jacobsen

Head of School
Mount Vernon Presbyterian School
Atlanta, GA

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