To the Editor:
Thank you for producing such a thoughtful article
and bringing my film (“The War on Kids”) to the attention to your readers. I wanted to address, however, some of your concerns with the film for edification.
The reason why I argue that funding is not an issue is not to suggest that money doesn’t have any affect on the physical plant, but because the fundamental authoritarian structure cannot be impacted by increased revenue. This model is at the core of school’s dysfunction. It is not a vast generalization to make such a statement about public education no more than saying that all waters are liquids. It is an essential feature.
With regards to schools and images I chose, I deliberately avoided extremes. I did not cover corporal punishment because it exists in 19 states, not all 50, although that practice certainly demonstrates abuse of power and would have had a profound emotional impact.
There were schools that were profoundly more dilapidated than the middle class and upper middle class schools I included. Some instances included rusted out trailers that had been converted into classrooms. My samples often reflect better than the norm. The Swat Team raid, which was an anomaly in practice, was included to show the logical consequences of current trends and was something that could occur anywhere under the guise of meaning well. I do believe the superintendent when he said that the intentions were good and that is the heart of the problem.
The school I compared with the prison had been featured in Time magazine as an exemplary turnaround and clearly had competent and educated administrators running the school. While many schools do not have metal detectors, security cameras and police officers are ubiquitous and locker searches are increasingly more frequent. Almost every school has zero tolerance policies.
The weakness of the film that I do concede is that it presents a mirror to people cannot recognize their own face. I showed the movie at one of the schools where I filmed extensively and a teacher came up to me afterwards and told me how much better her school is than the one depicted. While she found the movie chilling, she felt good about where she was and what she was doing. That summed everything up perfectly.
126 Hyde Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
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