Silver Screens and Blackboards

Alec Barrett in the Harvard Political Review:

ScreenHunter_05 May. 06 14.16 In the summer of 2010, USA Today’s Greg Toppo asked, “Is 2010 the year of the education documentary?” The article seized on a striking trend: the sudden emergence of films examining the problem of public education in the United States. Three of these, 2010’s highly acclaimed Waiting for “Superman,” the lesser-known 2009 film The Cartel, and the soon-to-be-released TEACHED come from different political perspectives and focus on different aspects of educational reform. They even use some of the same footage, including a rather jarring clip of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg saying, “A parent says to me, ‘Oh, my kid goes to a great school,’ and I said, “Lady, your kid can’t read or add two and two. What do you mean it’s a good school?’” Yet the fact that three such different filmmakers have created films around the theme not only demonstrates Hollywood’s interest in educational films like these but also a widespread, national interest in seeing them…

TEACHED creator Kelly Amis brings her experience as a teacher to her film. In an email to the HPR, she said, “We let teachers talk…instead of mostly talking about them.” Amis is the least political of the three filmmakers and seeks to show as much as tell her viewers. Before the full documentary was released, she put out a series of short films online, which will target a wider audience through digital media. The first, “Path to Prison,” features a former convict who taught himself to read at age 17 after being pushed through the Los Angeles school system without so. In five minutes of one man’s experience, we hear about inept teachers, ineffective evaluations, and the socioeconomic consequences of a broken system. Amis’s project “will not necessarily follow the traditional film trajectory,” but the film strives to be both a rallying cry to galvanize those who would fight for change and a source of hope for those who have lost faith in the system.

More here. Kelly Amis is, of course, not only the filmmaker behind TEACHED but also a 3QD writer. She is trying to raise funds to finish the movie with a Kickstarter campaign. Please do consider donating a few dollars to this important effort: