Monday, October 20, 2014

‘Class Dismissed – The Movie’ (Film Review)

Last Wednesday I drove out to Laemmle's NoHo 7 Cinema for the premiere screening of the long-awaited Class Dismissed - The Movie (2014). Aided in part by donations through an Indiegogo campaign, filmmakers Jeremy Stuart and Dustin Woodard joined forces to create this independent documentary exploring some of the whys and hows of contemporary homeschooling. They found a family that was on the cusp of giving up the public school system, and started filming.

If you decide to attend one of the upcoming screenings, be forewarned. This is the type of film where the audience’s pre-approval and enthusiasm can make up for whatever is lacking in content and quality. As an indie film, it’s a bit rough around the edges, but I thought that they did a great job overall, including a variety of voices and mentioning some of the problems – as well as the benefits – of independent schooling.

Given the time constraint, the film covers a lot, but someone will always be asking why such-and-such was left out. However, I think it was appropriate to focus primarily on the methods the featured family were trying. What do I wish they’d covered more? Well, while court battles and police visits are largely a thing of the past, it would’ve been nice for them to address the legalities of unschooling in California. I had a more “structure” curriculum, so I’m curious as to how families fare when they don’t.

Also, I would’ve liked some discussion about potential problems with the children’s futures. It might be nice to spend your day crafting and volunteering at the local aquarium, but there’s a lot of things employers expect you to get that generally comes from a classroom. Perhaps unintentionally, the film gives the impression that you can learn everything on the (unpaid) job. This is a major pitfall in the homeschooling mentality, and it’s resulted in too many adults who realized too late that they’d wasted their developmental years on what their parents mistakenly thought would prepare them for good careers. I had to learn the painful lesson that volunteer and “real world” experience are complements – not substitutes – for credentials and degrees. I hope these girls don’t have too.


4 comments:

  1. Could you please explain what the "things are that employers expect you to get that generally come from a classroom"? Thanks.

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    1. Kris: Sure. To use this example (although I admit it's not something I know much about), a high school student volunteering at an aquarium is probably going to learn a lot about feeding and cleaning tanks and maybe some facts like Latin names, natural habitats, basic body parts, etc. But to become a real marine biologist you need to know far more. Information beyond this is generally learned from professor's lectures, lab experiments, and a lot of reading. Most employees aren't going to care about your independent book reading. They're going to use traditional education to screen most employees. They want to look up from your transcripts and say "Oh, I see you got an "A" in Marine Biology 101. Tell me a bit about what you learned." They don't want to have to actually have to give an examination to make sure you know the material. And you won't get the job (or a higher level volunteer position) unless they're convinced.

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  2. I get what youre saying. So maybe, staying on the positive side, this teen will have such a passion for this that she will continue on to higher education because she was engaged and interested and graduate with. B.S in Marine biology, wheras if she continued to be miserable in school and continued to learn to hate learning she may not go onto college at all because she has had a bad experience in the traditional school setting?!? Just a thought, I guess we will never know, unless of course they do a follow up of "where they are now" in say...10 years. Lol

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    1. Right. I think it's a great idea for teens to volunteer, not just to test the waters for a future career, but to learn responsibility and a whole bunch of basic skills...and to just have some plain old fun. But I'm just afraid that the film presented low-level job and volunteer experience as a good substitute - rather than a complement - for more structured learning.

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