A colleague and I watched the movie 2 Million Minutes and found it very interesting.
The documentary follow two high school students from each of three countries: United States, India and China, interspersed with interviews from various specialists in education, industry and labor. The story behind the title is that each high school student spends approximately 2 million minutes in high school, and the film looks at how they spend those minutes. American students spend less time on studies than Indian and Chinese students, but the reverse is true for time spent on other activities, such as music, arts, sports, part-time jobs and time with family and friends.
There’s a lot of food for thought in the film. It was interesting to see what types of subjects were studied and emphasized in each country (science, math and engineering are very popular in India and China, whereas in the United States, they focused more on the lack of these subjects in the curriculum), and also to hear about what motivates students to perform in each of these countries. I drew some parallels between Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” where he talked about the success being aligned with the amount of opportunity the student had to practice in the field. He kind of debunks the theory of “natural talent” in an area by pointing out that people who excel have often spent every moment of their free time practicing the thing that they become good at. It was interesting to think about that and hear some of the things that the students said about how they spend their free time. One example was a student who reads a little bit of an advanced calculus book every night before he goes to bed, and who spends half of his free time playing video games and the other computer programming – because he enjoys it. Hearing what each of these students enjoyed during their free time was very telling.
We will likely be discussing this film at our school soon. If anyone has seen the film and has any thoughts they’d like to express here, please feel free!