Thursday, February 24, 2011

Educational Change Video Marathon

I'm leaving work at the end of the day today to visit my alma mater (Peabody College for Teachers at Vanderbilt University) a few blocks away from my office at MNPS Virtual Learning. I'm going there view what I think is the first local screening of the independent film "Race to Nowhere." This is a movie I've been looking forward to seeing ever since I first learned about it on Facebook. Formerly subtitled "The Dark Side of America's Achievement Culture," its trailer, which I share at the end of this post, is intriguing, to say the least.

As the father of two beautiful children and something of an advocate for change (I feel personally responsible for the word "radical" appearing in the National Educational Technology Plan: "...the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies should identify key emerging trends and priorities and recruit and bring together the best minds and organizations to collaborate on high-risk/high-gain education R&D projects. It should aim for radical, orders-of-magnitude improvements by envisioning the impact of innovations and then working backward to identify the fundamental breakthroughs required to make them possible."), I am most interested in seeing this film for myself, even if it means subjecting myself to "heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink..." as advertised at the film's website.

Anticipation has me musing about the trend for change advocates to "Hollywoodize" their views by creating videos or, as this one is, full-length films and promoting their entertainment value, even to the point of profiting from them. Again, I want to share the trailer for tonight's film here, but before I do I'd suggest you beef up your upcoming Education Change Video Marathon by adding one or more of these film/videos to the bill. Here are several I've recently viewed, along links to their own trailers and some descriptive text from their respective websites. Watch each trailer and tell me you aren't motivated to view at least one of them:

Pricele$$, from Habitat Media, about the true cost of our current political fundraising legislation -- "PRICELE$$ is a one-hour documentary journey from 4th of July revelry to America's croplands; from hopeful windfarms to our nation's capitol in search of some answers. Maybe even a solution. The colorful cast of characters will inform, move, and amuse you. You'll be privy to personal accounts of lives upended and hear how postal rates cause global warming. You'll learn the definition of "running clean" and discover the fate of two politicians who actually enjoyed fundraising. Even the third graders in our film know something has to change."

ACT Out Against SAT, from Sam Kaufman, about the unfairness of using SAT scores for college entrance -- Host Allie Kaufman says, "I'm a high school student; my father is an award-winning filmmaker, and together we uncovered startling evidence that proves standardized tests are totally unfair to many students. If you've visited our website and watched our film at then you know the tests are biased against females, students whose second language is English, against minorities, students who can't afford quality test prep classes or tutors, and all those students who aren't good on standardized tests--even though they do great in school. And you know that the SAT Essay section is a complete joke." And here's an article from the Huffington Post describing the petition driving effort.

Waiting for Superman, from Davis Guggenheim and Michele Rhee, a stirring (and controversial) film about "the failures of the public education system in America that makes suggestions (also controversial) to "fix" it. Disclaimer--I have not actually seen this film, but just now went into my Netflix queue. I'll weigh in on the debate just as soon as I experience it first hand. 

Okay, here is the Race to Nowhere trailer, posted from TeacherTube so that even working teachers in firewall/blocked schools should be to watch it this very moment:

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