Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The War on Kids

“They [surveillance cameras] don’t really prevent anything; they just take pictures of it,” says Jessica Botcher, a student at Columbine High School.

I haven't seen The War on Kids. But this New York Times reviewer says it, "likens our public school system to prison and its disciplinary methods to fascism." Either the reviewer or the film maker has never done time or been to Guantanamo or they wouldn't use such broad-brush hyperbole. Not that there aren't prison-like public schools or fascist-minded enforcers manning many of them.

The real targets here are Zero Tolerance policies and the militarization of our schools, ie. loading them up with spy cameras, metal detectors and highly-visible security guards. If this approach worked, prisons would be the safest places on earth. They aren't.

But there are hundreds of public schools, especially smaller learning communities, that have rejected ZT and rely on community-building tactics and good teaching to keep schools safe.


  1. Judging from the trailer, this film is like so many others that paint all our schools as schools in crisis. The films often contradict one another: Schools are discipline-free zones; Schools are prisons; Schools are pressure cookers that stifle all joy; Schools have low academic standards and don't prepare students to compete internationally.

    What remains with the public is that schools are in some kind of crisis--who knows what kind--and so they should gather up their kids and run for the hills. I worry that the industry of films like The War on Kids will prevent the kinds of parent and community engagement we need to improve schools.

  2. A great article indeed and a very detailed, realistic and superb analysis of the current and past scenarios. I would like to thank the author of this article for contributing such a lovely and mind-opening article.

  3. Interesting how there can be a discussion thread on a film that neither reviewer not commentators have seen. I don't know if this is because society has become so jaded that we think we already know everything or people just like having an outlet to express opinions even on things they are not familiar with.

    I have seen the film in question.

    It is not about Zero Tolerance, although that is portrayed as a symptom of an ill-conceived institution that not only fails at its stated mission to educate, but also instills apathy and obedience to authority. The film does not blame teachers, administrators, parents and least of all, kids. Rather, it is an indictment of the system itself and is a much more sophisticated analysis than anything depicted before.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.