Unequal Education Revisited: A Dialogue with Steve Goodman

Jul 22nd, 2014 | By | Category: BLTN Teachers, Issue, Spring 2014, Uncategorized

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On July 18, 2014 Steve Goodman of Educational Video Center (EVC)  in New York visited Bread Loaf’s Vermont campus to share some of the work and methods of EVC youth in developing provocative and thoughtful documentary videos. Following his visit, Steve invites us to join him here in an online dialogue about the final work he showed, “Unequal Education Revisited.”

After viewing the video linked below (use evc120 as password), and reading Steve’s reflections, please join the dialogue via the comments section at the bottom of this page.

If you have trouble entering the discussion, please contact Tom McKenna. Please take some time, too, to review curricular resources and other examples of youth documentary work EVC’s website at http://www.evc.org . For Steve’s account of students making the original “Unequal Education” documentary, see Goodman, Steven.  (1994)”Talking Back: The Portrait of a Student Documentary on School Inequity” in Experiencing Diversity: Toward Educational Equity. California: Corwin Press, Inc..



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Link to Unequal Education Revisited (password required)

Bill Moyers says in the opening to the EVC documentary “Unequal Education Revisited,”

“The gap between rich and poor has rarely been so great in our country.  But in some cases years, even decades pass before the full impact of that vast inequality becomes apparent…. [EVC’s] updated report reveals how the inequities plaguing society– not only in education, but in justice and health care as well, can affect one person’s ability to survive, growing up in an unforgiving system that too often leaves the poor behind.”

Back in 1992, EVC students documented a year in the life for two students showing this inequity in the resources and teaching that poor and middle class students experienced in their two different schools in the same New York City Bronx district. In the followup film, they tell the story of the dehumanizing experiences that one student, Lonnie Smith, had as a gifted and talented 7th grader in school, the violence he witnessed in his Bronx community and later perpetrated himself when he moved south to Virginia,  and his struggles now as a disconnected adult 22 years later searching for affordable housing and the mental health care he needs.

I think this story raises a range of questions including how Lonnie’s life path might have been different if he went to the school in the middle class neighborhood with the greater resources and supports that he needed. The  role of professional development for teachers, and the possibilities and limitations of parental involvement are also raised. On a policy level, it raises questions about what kind of changes are needed on both a structural and individual level to close the achievement gap and the wealth gap and the importance of youth voices in these policy debates. Education philosopher Maxine Greene asks how schools can give students hope in the face of this injustice. She also asks how we can help students regain a sense of visibility, when they feel invisible, or “dead to the world” as Lonnie says at the end of the film. In her followup commentary, Greene prompts us to consider the role of literature. “You know we have to tell the children, there is an alternative. I like to use literature… because I think that literature sometimes shows openings that discursive books don’t show.”

What questions does this film raise for you? What connections would you like to make, and thoughts would you like to make share as part of this dialogue of Bread Loaf teachers?

(Comments are moderated and will appear shortly after being posted.)

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