10 April 2016

The System is BREAKING, for Many it is ALREADY Broken: A #MLTSfilm Review

My district is hosting a screening of the education documentary Most Likely to Succeed on Thursday, April 14 - its something I've been anticipating since I first saw this film last December at Mehlville HS (Get your FREE tickets here!)

The basic premise of the film is that US industrial education model that was developed at the end of the 19th century to develop a moderately literate, instruction-following, factory-ready workforce is obsolete and killing us. The filmmakers then show us a way out, specifically highlighting the work done by teacher-innovators and their students at High Tech High in San Diego, CA.

One of the most poignant moments of the film for me is when we see one of the school's parents admit that although she's nervous about what exactly her daughter is learning at the project-based learning school, she acknowledges that her friends' kids are often coming back from prestigious universities with prestigious degrees and having a hard time finding work. 

It's a growing cultural theme - the promise of college = great job is waning, if it's not already dead.

But is this really new, or is it new for the more privileged in our society, making it finally apparent to many more in power? 

The filmmakers give a lot of stats midway through the film about how much knowledge is lost in only a few months from taking a random test, that its nearly impossible to learn US history meaningfully in an AP US History course, and that good grades and good test scores don't exactly correlate into creative, independent, resourceful workers for firms looking for innovation.

Now to my point - urban and rural communities that are ALREADY struggling to keep up with affluent suburbs already know these things. They already know that the test system is rigged and meaningless for them. They already see their best leaving. 

Poor urban and rural communities that MOST need the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurism that this film advocates for our students need most to run with this revolution of what "school" looks like, but face more challenges in grabbing the ring. We see many of the parents point out in the film: "We don't know that this will really work! I'm nervous!" but they take the risk anyway, because their communities and families can risk the failures required of innovation. 

If you have any commitment to a community with a failing or struggling school, I implore you to support leaders who will take risks of innovation, rather than promising that we can do more of the same and eventually catch up. 

Thursday night is the 3rd time I will have seen Most Likely to Succeed, and I am more convinced with each viewing that we owe these experiences to all children. We need teachers who refuse to teach toward any test (AP exams included). We need administrators who will value We need parents who demand their children do more at school than study for tests of knowledge acquisition. We need university partnerships willing to train our current and future teachers in the messy process of nurturing creative processes and innovative, iterative learning environments. We need politicians who will make room for this innovation. We need cooperation between all of these.

One of my favorite things about this movie is that rather than only reminding us again that education is broken it shows us a way out and gives us a call to action we can use to galvanize communities around the change.

I'll leave your with a sit-down interview from Sundance Film Festival with the filmmakers, director Greg Whiteley and executive producer Ted Dintersmith, and a TED Talk from Ted Dintersmith about preparing kids for life over standardized tests.

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Thanks for sharing!