Tags: children/youth, class, education, inequality, ideology, individualism, meritocracy, sociological imagination, 00 to 05 mins, 61+ mins
Length: 1:37 (full film is 81:00)
Summary: This extra is from The Lottery, a documentary that examines the controversy around public schools, charters schools, and the educational reform movement. It follows the lives of four families in New York City who applied to the lottery to enter one of the best charter schools in the city. This short clip features person-on-the-street style interviews, where everyday people describe their views on why students don't succeed in schools (or watch the full film). Some of the responses include: "the only thing from stopping you from making it is your own self ... you can't blame the system. You blame yourself"; "the problems with our educational system are cultural"; "in one city you can have garbage schools up in our neighborhood, and then down there, amazing schools. and you can't tell me that's not race-based"; "if my school had been better, then I believe I wouldn't be on the streets." Viewers can be encouraged to consider which of the response reflect the sociological imagination, as compared with purely individualistic explanations. The clip could also be used to examine the role of ideology in American society. Individualistic explanations of schooling failures reflect the ideology of the American Dream, in which anyone can succeed if they work hard enough (and that the US functions as a meritocracy). This strong form of individualism serves to reinforce schooling inequalities by shifting the blame from structural forces (e.g. the distribution of school funding, class inequality) to individuals (children or their parents). This ideology obscures the reality, as shown in this Oprah clip and this mini-documentary, that dramatic inequalities in our public school system lead to different outcomes for students based on class, and often race. As the full film shows, thousands of students try to opt out of the failing public school system by entering the lottery, but only a small number will win the arbitrary process. On the other hand, wealthier families can purchase homes in better school districts or send their children to private schools; while winning the lottery is entirely by luck, the class system and educational funding are not.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
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