Heartbreaking without being despairing, Alan and Susan Raymond's Oscar-winning documentary chronicles one year in the lives of 725 pupils who attended Stanton Elementary School in a crime-ridden Philadelphia neighborhood during the early 1990s.
A 22-year veteran of urban education wars, Principal Deanna Burney works hard to instills self-confidence in her students, who range in age from Head Start pre-schoolers to fifth graders. Positive re-enforcement is a necessary extension of regular lesson plans, because many Stanton Elementary students, like Anthony and Rasheem, suffer behavioral disorders. Raised in single parent homes, other youngsters get their only hot meals of the day at school and among grade schoolers living at the poverty level, morose and disruptive attitudes are the rule rather than the exception. One latch-key youngster waits in the schoolyard for hours before classes begin; a custodian cautions a litter-conscious child not to pick up drug paraphanelia on her way to school. Bright and personable Cornelius, 8, often resorts to violence for reasons as trivial as perceived slights; his mother sometimes withholds his Ritalin because she fears it will become a crutch. The inner-city environment is so daunting that Principal Burney and her staff greet the kids out on the sidewalks and shepherd them inside. Yet, Stanton elementary doesn’t throw in the towel. Boys on the verge of giving up blossom under the tutelage of male teachers, who serve as positive role models. Nadia, the daughter of dope addicts, is so determined to learn that she "adopts" an older neighbor as her grandfather and moves in with him. Some children fall through the cracks, but Principal Burney’s staff refuses to blame the system or use federal neglect as an excuse.
Filmmakers Susan and Alan Raymond let the disquieting facts speak for themselves in this clear-eyed documentary, which views the notion that inner-city public schools offer disadvantaged children an education equal to that of their suburban counterparts as a cruel myth the myth of Sisyphus in particular. Giving the lie to catch phrases like "No Child Left Behind," they put the spotlight on youngsters who are left behind by society before they even start school.
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: NR
- Review: Heartbreaking without being despairing, Alan and Susan Raymond's Oscar-winning documentary chronicles one year in the lives of 725 pupils who attended Stanton Elementary School in a crime-ridden Philadelphia neighborhood during the early 1990s. A 22-yea… (more)