Saturday, April 9, 2011

"The Lottery" - View it on Hulu for Free!

For those of you who haven't seen the documentary "The Lottery", now is your chance. Below is a description.

In a country where 58% of African American 4th graders are functionally illiterate, The Lottery uncovers the failures of the traditional public school system and reveals that hundreds of thousands of parents attempt to flee the system every year. The Lottery follows four of these families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery. Out of thousands of hopefuls, only a small minority will win the chance of a better future.

Directed by Madeleine Sackler and shot by award-winning cinematographer Wolfgang Held, The Lottery uncovers a ferocious debate surrounding the education reform movement. Interviews with politicians and educators explain not only the crisis in public education, but also why it is fixable. A call to action to avert a catastrophe in the education of American children, The Lottery makes the case that any child can succeed.

And here's a quote that hits the nail on the head about equitable access to a quality education that our public schools should provide, but simply don't.
The problem is not the parents. The problem is not the children. The problem is a system that protects academic failure and limits the choices that parents have.

Click the link below to view the movie online at your own leisure.

The Lottery


David Montané said...

After watching the movie, here are my thoughts:

Public employee unions are a bad idea. Politicans make bad managers, and bureaucrats are irresponsible with tax money. The unions exploit this, including teachers unions. I agree that education should be about the children, not about the adults.

People have a choice as to whether to have children or not. Tax deductions for dependents give people an incentive to have children.

Parents always have a choice in schools. Their choices always include private schools and home schooling. Most take the easy way out and let the government use our tax money for their childrens' schooling. The movie carefully avoided mentioning these choices.

Public schools are the most expensive option. Charter schools are a bit less, and vouchers are even less, but both still use tax money and are far more expensive than private schools. Private schools would be drastically less expensive than they are now if not for the government monopoly on schooling. Home schooling is by far the least expensive.

A college degree was portrayed in the movie as the holy grail of education, but is far from a guarantee of a higher-paying career. High school graduates who can't find a satisfactory job often take the path of least resistance, easily getting government grants, scholarships and low-interest-rate loans for their undergraduate degrees and then often for their graduate degrees. Afterward, they are often unable to find a better-paying job than if they had gone straight to work from high school. But they have missed four to six years of work experience and income, and are deep in debt.

What if learning and schooling are two different things? What if life-long learning was assumed to be a right and responsibility of each individual for him or herself? What if mandatory schooling from age 6 to 16 had not been written into the Georgia constitution several decades ago?

I dare say our population would be much better informed, have a higher standard of living, and be more capable of thinking for themselves, than now.

After 13-19 years of institutional learning, how many of us know how to balance a checkbook and spend less than we earn, let alone how banks make money from thin air. How many of us can read a typical ingredients list on boxed, canned or frozen food and explain what is healthy, what is not, and where it all comes from. These are examples of the basic stuff of life that are not taught in schools.

Cerebration said...

Interesting points, David. You do always have a very different perspective - I appreciate the way you challenge traditional thought on education.

This movie made me cry. I couldn't believe that people were so incredibly difficult and fighting against each other over the opportunities presented for "some" by this school. Then, what really made me sad was the fact that it was only by sheer luck that "some" students got access to a quality school while others left heaving with disappointment. It looked third world to me -- not the America I hold dear in my mind. In fact, I was most disappointed in the lack of empathy the "winners" had for the "losers"... they jumped, clapped, cheered, cried with joy when they "won"... all right in front of the "losers". Sheer gloating selfishness. Not one of them demanded a quality educational opportunity for ALL children.

What have we become? Our society is enormously segregated by class - and the one variable that will keep people in their place in the hierarchy is education. Education CAN be the great equalizer -- but more and more I'm finding that this country no longer values equality. I grieve over that.

rach said...

Hey David,
Got any thing (serious research) to black up these claims?

"Public schools are the most expensive option. Charter schools are a bit less, and vouchers are even less, but both still use tax money and are far more expensive than private schools."

David Montané said...

The difference between public school and private school costs is explored in "They Spend WHAT? The Real Cost of Public Schools", by Adam Schaeffer, which can be found at

I can't remember where I read about charter schools being less expensive than public schools. I think it was a news article about the new Museum School in Avondale Estates that I read recently in the DeKalb Neighbor.

I have read several articles on, usually by Gary North, about dirt cheap or even free home schooling curricula.

Cerebration said...

The administrative costs of public school have gone beyond sustainable. The salaries of non-teaching employees are sucking the life out of our school budgets. In one of these new movies focusing on education, they did the math -- say, the budget breaks down to $10,000 per child per year (includes everything...) - that makes a classroom of 30 cost $300,000 a year. Take off the teacher's pay (Crawford Lewis always budgeted $65,000 per teacher including bonuses), and you have $235,000 left to spend on those 30 kids. Take off for books, art, music, transportation, etc and you still have a lot of money leftover.

What if that money was distributed as vouchers? Could small schools spring up that focus on the classroom and could function on this kind of budget? I would say, yes. Think about it - a small K-8 school with 30 students in each grade (9x30=270) times $10,000 per student = $2.7 million. I would think that there are plenty of people capable of running a k-8 school on a $2.7 million budget. I would even bet that they could do it and be totally inclusive of special education. I would bet they could do it with just a very good principal, solid teachers and a highly focused board of directors.

Auntie said...

I have an idea . . . let's outsource the whole darn Palace. Let's skip hiring a new superintendent, and oursource the management of DCSS to a neighboring school system that is doing a good job. The school board could hire the superintendent of a functioning school system to have his/her management staff run DeKalb County's schools. They would probably need some of the central office folks, but not all. Think of the efficiencies of scale! And this seems to make more sense than hiring a person with no experience running a school system our size. Thoughts?

Potential school systems which seem to be succeeding include Gwinnett and Cobb.

Cerebration said...

Interesting... or how about just subcontracting it all to KIPP - and a few others... we could split it up by 'region'...

Dekalbparent said...

You know what? Thinking outside the box, as Cere, Auntie and David are doing, is the beginning of a very fruitful discussion! Their posts may strike you as silly, but dammit folks, we have all been rehashing our quite legitimate complaints and getting more and more frustrated.

So, come on - bring on the ideas outrageous, tongue-in-cheek, and different - we may get somewhere!

What could be done to make DeKalb become a better school system if we didn't have to conform to any of the conventional ideas and organizing schemes?