I’m interested in your opinion.
The documentary, which is 95 minutes and has 8 segments, basically makes the argument that middle class schools, for white children, are a lot like prison. It opens with an examination of “zero tolerance” policies, with cops doing drug busts in high school hallways, pulling guns on kids while drug sniffing dogs nose student backpacks, and moves through the drugging of kids for ADD and ADHD. (The film makes the point that 90% of the psycho stimulant drugs consumed in the world are taken by American schoolchildren). It concludes with a segment on the uselessness and inanity of homework. John Taylor Gatto, Pat Farenga, real time high school teachers, and many, many kids actually held captive in school are profiled.
I’m interested in your opinion of the film because I left the screening deeply uneasy. It is very brave for highlighting some issues that often don’t get talked about in mainstream discourse on schooling (schools are designed for producing quiescence, passivity, disengagement, they treat kids like criminals and inmates), and many of the alternative educators at the conference, who don’t hang out in American public schools, were more distressed than they were already inclined to be given that they’ve completely opted out of the system. (Why would ANY parent in good conscience send their kids to public school, they wondered aloud…)
But as a political tool, its fundamental message is fear. It wants to arouse fear in the viewer, about what schools do, about their effects, about the lack of resistance at every level. The film is an unmitigated, unvariegated picture of compressed, dismal incarceration, and in me induced a kind of alienation, the kind of numbing it sets out to condemn. You can’t use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house, and that’s exactly what this film is about: using fear to try to activate the average viewer to do something.
I wonder how you’d see it? Is this the kind of political tool we want to use? How much does it help, and how much does it harm. And with whom?
As a secondary note, in the discussion following the film, trends emerged among the commentors. One group (perhaps smaller) wanted to talk about what to do and how to engage politically to change the system. Another group (remember this is a conference for homeschoolers, alternative schoolers, free schoolers, unschoolers, and some far-thinking public schoolers) who said: Thank god we’ve opted out. We’ll produce the alternative ways, and that’s how we’ll “act” upon the system.
What do we think here at the COOP? What is our theory of action for change?
And do tools like THE WAR ON KIDS help up?
I’m really interested in what you think.
(You can get the DVD online…watch the trailer here)