Films on Education

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Films on COLLEGE

Out of Print (2013)

Documentary 55 minutes 2013. Out of Print draws us into the topsy-turvy world of the written word, illuminating the turbulent journey of the book through the digital revolution. Writers, publishers, readers, all in flux. Booksellers closing shop. Librarians and teachers seeking new roles. Ray Bradbury, Scott Turow, parents, students, educators, scientists — all highlight how this revolution is changing everything about the printed word — and changing us. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon as an online bookstore, places us in the middle of the debate. People tell us they read snippets all day long, yet one of five Americans no longer reads a single book, in any format, in an entire year.

Koch Brothers Exposed

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr. Koch Brothers Exposed reveals that the Koch Brothers have launched a large network attacking American values — from their environmental pollution, to their efforts to dismantle social security for working Americans. This revealing film investigates the richest 1% in America at its very worst — the Koch brothers’ racist, and anti-environmental, and anti-middle class politics. The Koch brothers’ net worth tops $50 billion, and they pledged to spend $60 million to defeat President Barack Obama in 2012. See Full Review

Fame High

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 37m. This coming-of-age chronicle captures a year in the life of students at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, also known as “Fame High.”

The Lottery

Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 20m. In this penetrating look at public education in America, filmmaker Madeleine Sackler follows four children through the highs and lows of a life-changing lottery, where the prize is a spot in one of New York City’s best charter schools. When presented with a chance to pull their youngsters out of a failing system, some parents dare to be cautiously optimistic, knowing full well there are hundreds of thousands of kids in the pool.

Race to Nowhere

Documentary 2009 PG-13. Director Vicki Abeles interviews numerous teachers and children in this cautionary documentary that focuses on the potential adverse impacts of parents’ increasing obsession with their children’s academic results. The collateral effects of this extra stress on students and the impacts on entire families are hard to quantify, but the highly emotional reactions of parents and kids captured on camera underscore its importance as a social issue.

Nursery University

Documentary 2008 NR 90 minutes. Follow five families through the harrowing process of applying to nursery school in New York City, where hypercompetitive parents and elite institutions have made pricey consultants and toddler tutors part of the admissions process. Marc H. Simon’s insightful documentary uses wry humor and drama to examine the increasingly common belief that securing entrance to the “right” preschool classroom is a critical first step to success. Welcome to the alternate universe of the city’s preschool admissions process. Humorously portrayed in the upcoming indie movie “Nursery University,” it’s a world of tantrums, bluffs and bribery – and that’s just the parents.Kids barely out of diapers cram for IQ tests. Type-A dads plan their tots’ freshman year at Yale. Consultants charge $10,000 a pop to share their secrets of success. A nose-picking habit is considered special needs.

A Place at the Table

Documentary 2012 PG 1hr 24m. Using personal stories, this powerful documentary illuminates the plight of the 49 million Americans struggling with food insecurity. It is a startling fact that so many millions in the US don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Food insecurity is an invisible, but very real problem in our country. Of the developed world, the US ranks 23 in food security.  See Full Review

The Wave
(Die Welle)

Docudrama 2008 NR 1hr 47m. To give his students a real-world example of how dictatorships can grow powerful, a high school teacher in Germany conducts a social experiment. Based on an experiment that took place at a Palo Alto California high school in 1967 (albeit with a much less dramatic ending), this is a cautionary tale about the roots of fascism. Ron Jones, the teacher whose 1967 experiment “The Third Wave” on which the film was based, also attended the screening in San Francisco at the “Berlin and Beyond Film Festival” 2009 and answered questions following the viewing, which made the events that had taken place within the film all the more real and haunting. In the film instructor Rainer Wenger is unnable to reach his students through customary teaching methods, and decides on a controversial approach in teaching autocracy. Beginning with well-placed homilies about unity and cooperation, he suggests class uniforms and a group name. Some students switch to another class, disturbed by Wenger’s mode of instruction, while some of those remaining take the lessons to heart in increasingly disturbing ways. What develops is a heightening conflict which finally erupts with surprising and memorable results. At its core this film is about the need to belong and serves as a chilling allegory of fascism. Like the students in the film I started out thinking ‘This could never happen today’. But the way that it was presented, I totally understood why something like this could happen. A must see!

The Revisionaries

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr23m. This documentary looks at a pitched cultural conflict over school textbook standards in Texas, as determined by the state’s Board of Education (BOE). Watch as people who think that humans and dinosaurs co-existed decide what is taught in our schools.  See Full Review

Judgment Day:
Intelligent Design on Trial

Documentary “Nova” series 2007 NR 112 minutes. With this episode, the popular “Nova” series examines the trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a controversial legal battle sparked by a group of science teachers who refused to comply with an order to teach intelligent design (ID). See Full Review

Dropout Nation

Documentary Frontline 2012. A journey through an inner-city high school investigates the challenges of America’s dropout crisis.

Middle School Moment

Documentary Frontline 2012. How one Bronx school is using a novel form of data collection and analysis to predict and prevent dropouts before they happen.

Won’t Back Down

Docudrama 2012 PG. In this fact-based drama, two women from different classes and races (Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal) draw on their common bond of motherhood to fight institutional inertia and an antagonistic bureacracy to improve an inner-city school.

Waiting for “Superman”

Documentary 2010 PG 1hr 51m. Dynamic documentarian Davis Guggenheim weaves together stories about students, families, educators and reformers to shed light on the failing public school system and its consequences for the future of the United States.

The War on Kids

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 35m. Filmmaker Cevin D. Soling offers this provocative documentary that examines the appalling condition of America’s public schools, which often resemble high-security prisons more than places of learning.

The Cartel

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 32m. In his first feature film, director Bob Bowdon takes aim at America’s public school system, revealing a self-serving network of wasteful cartels that squander funding and fail to deliver when it comes to academic testing and basic skills. Both parents and teachers want change, but reform is an uphill battle in the face of heel-digging bureaucrats and so-called “dropout factories.” It’s a bona fide crisis that’s burgeoning out of control. Explains in detail how Teachers Unions are killing our public education system. The NJEA is too big, to powerful, and too corrupt, and needs to be dissolved here in NJ. Only then will education reform begin. Only then will the money find its way to the classroom, the good teachers, and most importantly…the kids. Some of the firsthand stories that are told are downright sickening, but the truth must come out.Thank god for people like Bob Bowden who are not afraid to stand up and expose the corruption and wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars.This movie is a MUST-SEE for all American taxpayers – even if you don’t have a school age child. Related films are “Waiting for Superman” and “The Lottery”.

The Providence Effect

Documentary 2009 PG. In the late 1970s, inner-city Providence-St. Mel High School was about to be closed by Chicago’s Catholic archdiocese. This documentary details Principal Paul J. Adams III’s struggle to keep the school open as an independent, nonprofit institution. More than 30 years later, the dedication of one man has paid off remarkably: Every one of the school’s graduates has gone on to college — many of them to top-tier and Ivy League universities.

Growing Up Online

Documentary Frontline 2008 NR 56m. Take a look inside the lives of the most Internet-savvy generation ever with this PBS “Frontline” program that investigates teens and their cyber-existences. The kids and their parents discuss both the realities and the risks of this new frontier. As parents deal with their teens’ drastically different ideas about privacy, the kids confront cyber-bullying, Internet predators, YouTube fame and many other issues new to their generation.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 2m. This earnest and engaging documentary about modern adolescent sex spotlights a host of alarming trends and truths: Thousands of U.S. teenagers contract a sexually transmitted disease every day, and approximately 2,400 young girls become pregnant. Looking for ways to confront these disturbing social realities, director James Houston visits the Netherlands, where alternative approaches are utilized to educate sexually active young people.

Ten9Eight: Shoot for the Moon

Documentary 2009 NR 85 minutes. In filmmaker Mary Mazzio’s inspiring documentary, young inner-city students — entrepreneurs — discuss their harrowing lives and the numerous obstacles they’ve overcome as they compete to take home a $10,000 grant to start a business. The diverse group of creative, enthusiastic and determined teens is followed closely as they participate in a prestigious competition hosted by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

The Education of Shelby Knox

Documentary 2005 NR 1hr 16m. Small-town Texas teenager Shelby Knox becomes an advocate for sex education (and the local media’s so-called “Sex Ed Girl”) when she tries to improve the county’s sky-high teen pregnancy rate by challenging her high school’s policy of teaching abstinence. In this documentary from Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt — which uses footage shot over a three-year period — the action unfolds almost effortlessly, revealing a stunning transformation.

Generation RX

Documentary 2008 NR 81 minutes. Filmmaker Kevin P. Miller offers this unflinching examination of the unsettling trend in the American medical establishment toward prescribing powerful psychiatric drugs for children more often — and at a younger age — than ever before. Families devastated by the consequences of overmedication share their stories, and doctors, ethicists and other medical professionals weigh in on whether pharmaceutical companies put profits before patients.See Full Review

Generation RX: Reading, Writing and Ritalin

Documentary A&E; 2008 NR 50 minutes.Exploring both sides of a controversial issue, this A&E; documentary asks whether Ritalin — the tiny yellow pill prescribed to millions of kids with Attention Deficit Disorder — is a miracle cure or merely a quick fix that does more harm than good. The drug’s supporters and detractors weigh in on the sharp increase in Ritalin prescriptions since 1990 and debate its effectiveness in keeping youngsters focused at home and in the classroom.

Flock of Dodos
The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus

Documentary 2006 PG 1hr 25m. Evolutionary biologist Randy Olson explains the debate over intelligent design in this in-depth yet lighthearted documentary that examines how evolution is being taught in the United States. Featuring visits to school districts that have adopted the controversial theory, interviews with leading advocates for both camps, plus a flock of animated dodos, Olson’s film draws laughs even as it delves into this complex and emotionally charged issue.


Documentary 2002 G 97 minutes. This Oscar-nominated entry documents the intense experience of the National Spelling Bee as seen through the eyes of eight young spellers, with viewers glimpsing the kids’ private lives as they train for and compete in the ultimate cerebral showdown. While they try to keep their eyes on the $10,000 prize, their personal stories illuminate their quirks, their obsessive study habits and their alternately heartbreaking and inspiring family dynamics.


Documentary Directed by Kelly Amis, a former corps member of Teach for America, Teached examines the “achievement gap” encountered by urban, minority youth. “What motivated [Amis] was a fervent belief that film could reach new audiences beyond the policy elite—and with emotional storytelling that would be much more powerful than anything written on the printed page.”

Inherit the Wind

Docudrama 1960 NR 128 minutes. Spencer Tracy (in an Oscar-nominated role) and Fredric March square off as opposing attorneys Henry Drummond and Matthew Harrison Brady, respectively, in this blistering courtroom drama about the famed 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial,” in which a Tennessee teacher was taken to task for teaching Darwinism in the classroom. The film also earned Oscar nods for its editing, screenplay and cinematography. Gene Kelly co-stars as a newspaper reporter.

I Am a Promise: Stanton Elementary

Documentary 1993 NR 90 minutes. In this revealing, Academy Award-winning documentary produced by HBO, directors Alan and Susan Raymond step into the Stanton Elementary School in North Philadelphia to shed light on the struggles that its students, teachers and administrators face each day: inadequate housing, drug addiction, unrelenting poverty and rampant crime. What’s revealed is a testament to willpower and the human spirit, their prime vehicles on the road to success.


Public Schools, Inc.

Documentary Frontline 2003. Ten years after “edupreneur” Chris Whittle first announced his bold plan to revolutionize the way we educate children, Whittle’s Edison Schools continue to be a lightening rod for the issue of for-profit, public education. Frontline and the PBS education series The Merrow Report join forces with The New York Times to investigate the intertwined fortunes of Edison Schools and its charismatic yet controversial leader, and examine whether it’s possible to create world-class schools that turn a profit.

Testing Our Schools

Documentary Frontline 2002. President Bush’s proposal for mandatory public school testing in grades three through eight signals the beginning of a new era in public education, one marked by increased federal involvement in schools and an unprecedented expansion in the role of tests. A business school graduate and self-styled “CEO President,” Bush envisions a business model where educators set objectives, measure performance, and hold students and teachers accountable for results. But will the business model work in education? FRONTLINE correspondent John Merrow examines how the quest for higher scores is changing teaching and learning in America.

The Battle Over School Choice

Documentary Frontline 2000. With more students than ever enrolled in kindergarten through high school, education is now a top voter concern. What’s needed to improve our public schools-better teachers, smaller classes, greater parent involvement, higher standards, more tests? Or, is privatization the answer? Democrats and Republicans differ sharply on the hot button issue of school vouchers and whether public funds should be used to pay for private or parochial schools. Frontline explores the heated political debate over the reform of public education and investigates the spectrum of “school choice” options-from vouchers to charter schools to for-profit academies-and their growing popularity in troubled inner cities. Frontline also interviews presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush about their views on reform initiatives and looks at their track records on improving public schools.

Secrets of the SAT

Documentary Frontline 1999. How fair are standardized tests? What do they measure? And what’s their impact on racial diversity on America’s college campuses? Frontline examines the debate over fairness in college admissions, looking at the national obsession with test scores, the multimillion dollar test prep industry, and the legal challenges to race-sensitive admissions policies. A diverse set of students are followed through the stressful college admissions cycle as they dream of attending some of the country’s most prestigious universities.

Does TV Kill?

Documentary Frontline 1995. Before the average American child leaves elementary school, researchers estimate that he or she will have witnessed more than eight thousand murders on television. Has this steady diet of imaginary violence made America the world leader in real crime and violence? Frontline correspondent Al Austin journeys through what is known about television violence and how it affects our lives. The program reveals some unexpected conclusions about the impact TV has on the way we view the world.

School Colors

Documentary Frontline 1994. Integration. It was called the greatest social experiment of our generation. But 40 years after Brown v. Bd of Ed, many of our schools are still sharply segregated along color lines. America’s changing demographics have tested the limits of our racial and ethnic tolerance, leaving many of us to ask whether the nation’s diversity will enrich us or tear us apart. Follows one year in the lives of Berkeley CA students and principal.

A Class Divided

Documentary Frontline 1985. Almost 20 years ago, the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, a teacher in a small town in Iowa tried a daring classroom experiment. She decided to treat children with blue eyes as superior to children with brown eyes. Frontline explores what those children learned about discrimination and how it still affects them today.

Marshall High Fights Back

Documentary Frontline 1984 Marshall High School is one of the poorest in Chicago-both academically and economically. But it is fighting back, trying desperately to upgrade academic standards and to make a difference in the lives of it students. Frontline looks at the struggle to salvage Marshall High and the lessons this school has for a nation trying to improve its public schools.

Chasing the Basketball Dream

Documentary Frontline 1984. Many young men, especially many poor blacks in the nation’s cities, dream of making it big by playing basketball. Charlie Cobb looks at some who make it-and many who will not-and at many of the issues in high school and college sports today. College recruiters seek the best of them, promising an educations in exchange for play. But 75% never get a college degree because, as this film suggests, colleges are too busy with their big-time sports programs to be concerned with educating their players.

School for Scoundrels

Farce 1960 NR 1hr 34m. Shy loser Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) is in love with April Smith (Janette Scott), but she’s dating the suave Raymond Delauney (Terry-Thomas), so he enrolls in unconventional education classes to up his game. At the secret “College of Lifesmanship,” Henry’s confidence soars after taking courses such as “Woomanship” and “One-upmanship.” Hilarious performances highlight this brisk and biting British farce.

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