America’s “Race to Nowhere”

Photo: "Race to Nowhere" film


After Jane Marvin’s 13-year-old daughter Devon committed suicide in 2008, Marvin reviewed every email, chat, and phone call for missed signs of a troubled mind. A high-achieving, highly popular student, Devon had shown no symptoms of depression, Marvin reflects in the new documentary Race to Nowhere. Eventually Marvin uncovered just one clue: an unexpected “F” on a math test—the first one for Devon, a straight ‘A’ student.

It was this death that compelled ex-Wall Street lawyer (and mother of three) Vicki Abeles to make Race to Nowhere. Abeles—who interviewed psychiatrists, child development experts, teachers, parents, and teens in affluent and low-income communities for the film—claims that a silent epidemic of stress-related diseases among American children is leading to increased rates of suicide, depression, and anxiety. While I think the film at times oversimplifies the connections between No Child Left Behind testing and increased mental disorders, Race to Nowhere is still a must-see for any parent who wants to understand the daily pressures facing kids in schools.

Check out this site to find or host a film screening in your area, or get school survival tips.

  • Kristina Rizga is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. You can reach her at krizga@motherjones.com. Rizga covers education, focusing primarily on how school reforms affect students and teachers in the classrooms, and how policies create or reduce racial disparities in schools. She is the author of Mission High (Nation Books, 2015).

Members like you

Mother Jones is a nonprofit, and stories like this are made possible by readers like you. or to help fund independent journalism.