I wanted to let everyone know about an amazing film which will be opening at the Starz Film Festival in Denver next Friday. The Lottery is a cinema verite which follows four families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a small charter school lottery with the hope of bettering their lives. Although I would definately argue that a Montessori model offers a preferable approach, the film offers an insightful and intensely personal perspective on the need for educational reform in this country and racial inequality within the educational system.
It also clearly articulates the need for a critical pedagogy, or educational institutions which offer alternatives to the traditional dynamic between teacher, student, and society.
Against the heartbreaking images of beautiful children growing up destitute in American ghettos, horrible statistics about the probable outcome of children who do not win a spot (58% of African American fourth graders are functionally illiterate, a majority will drop out before graduating high school contributing to high rates of drug use, incarceration, and poverty) and families staking their hopes for their child's future on something as absurd as a lottery, the message of the film is ultimately a hopeful one.
In the words of the film's director, Madeline Sackler (a recent Duke graduate), when discussing her motivation for making the film: "A lot of people in my generation are profoundly affected by moral incongruities. I felt this is a fixable problem. How often does it happen that there is something that devastates lives that is fixable? It's not over there. It's not far away. It's here. It's in our backyard. What's surprising is the resistance that you get. That's the real world lesson. The lottery is a terrible, tragic event, but it's hopeful because people feel like the reason kids do better at a certain school is because they have a supportive family situation, or they have parents who help them do their homework, or they don't live in a poverty stricken area. They think the problem is at home or that certain parents don't value education, or realize the importance of education, or the problem is drugs, or gangs, or all these things. The real problem is much simpler- the fact that the public education system is under-delivering in certain communities."
For more information about the film, or to purchase tickets (or a copy of the movie), please visit their website at: http://www.thelotteryfilm.com/