THE FOURTH PURPOSE
The enigma of modern compulsory schooling
|If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be
|- Thomas Jefferson
from a letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, Jan 6th, 1816
|We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.
|- Woodrow Wilson
from an address to The New York City High School Teachers Association
Jan. 9th, 1909
Education is the bedrock of any democracy. The issues of equity, justice, even homeland security, require a population that can think for itself, reason, critique, and analyze. The American school system is failing us miserably in this regard. The policy makers know this, educators know it, parents know it, and most importantly, our kids, painfully know it. The media seem to know it as well. Daily, innumerable articles, editorials, and news segments are devoted to this issue. Even as our country is on heightened threat alert, prepares for war, and struggles with a faltering economy, the national discourse continually returns to the problems of education.
Why, in the richest, most powerful nation on earth are we not able to address this issue clearly and effectively?
Perhaps it is because we analyze the problems of our school system in terms of engineering solutionslonger school days, Phonics vs. Whole Word, merit pay for teachers, metal detectors, bigger districts, smaller class size. But we must first ask the most important question: What is the purpose of education? If the first three purposes are to create good people, good citizens, and good lives, as history suggests, then why have we allowed the Managerial Fourth Purpose to dominate what is really occurring in our 100,000 school buildings?
The Fourth Purpose, a 3-part, 6-hour documentary series will be the first film to ask this fundamental question. The series will tackle the American school system: present, past, and futureits anomalies, its history, and the alternatives. The idea is to throw a bucket of ice-cold water in the faces of pundits, experts, and bureaucrats. The intention is to radically shift the context within which people view schooling by offering a unified field theory of how and why our school system is so deeply dysfunctional. And then, once we have everyones attention, to show what people might do about it.
Working with author and former New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto, award-winning film director, Roland Legiardi-Laura has designed a 3-part structure built on solid research and a commitment to the material, which has the integrity commensurate with the epic scope of the material.
Part One: Whats Wrong? We will begin the series by looking at todays schools. It will be a probing and precise examination of the numerous contradictions in our system. Why is it that our childrens reading and math skills regularly fall within the bottom 25 percent of developed countries? Why have these skills declined steadily since World War II? What is the purpose of standardized testing, since it has never been shown that tests have been able to predict success in later life? How come our school textbooks are so inaccurate? How is it that such a disproportionate number of minority students are relegated to special education classes? Why are there more than 6 million children taking prescribed psychoactive drugs? Why do soda machines line the halls of schools? Why are our children fed unwholesome and fattening food? Why do more than 15 percent of our children carry weapons to school each month? The many questions explored in Part One will lead the viewer to ask the all important
How Did It Get This Way? Part Two will be an energetic tour of the history of our school system. Using animation, feature film clips, and archival footage, we will embark on a frightening and sometimes humorous adventure back in time to meet the architects of a system that had little to do with learning and much to do with effectively managing an explosively growing population while building a powerful economy.
Part Three: What Else is Possible? While the situation is grave, it is not at all hopeless. The series will build to its climax by surveying the working alternatives that have evolved here and abroad. We will look at the Amish in Pennsylvania, the Mondragon Cooperative in Basque, Spain. We will consider the different approaches to learning as presented by the Harmony School in Bloomington, Indiana, Steiners Waldorf Schools, the burgeoning home schooling movement, traditional private schools, the Montessori approach, viable private sector choices, and the work of brilliant lone pioneers like Escalante, Gatto, and Collins. We will summarize the work ahead, incite people to action, and conclude by asking one final question: How shall we prepare our children to live in America?
In Conclusion: The Fourth Purpose will not be another polite, talking heads, snore fest. It will be a series with powerful themes and a strong point of view. Hard questions will be asked throughout, questions that address the core of our belief system. This will be a film that engages the audience of students, parents, and teachers. As schooling is our one common experience and the mirror of our system of values, the stakes are highthe hearts and minds and future of the American people.
Distribution, Marketing, Audience & Budget
This is an ambitious project, with the scope of a Ken Burns series, and a detailed $5 million budget, designed to meet the challenge of creating a beautifully produced and compelling film. With a primary audience of 53 million school children and their parents, the film will be distributed in such a way as to generate an audience response similar to that of Harry Potter and The Blair Witch Project, the cross-over success of Eminem, and the provocative pitch of a Bowling For Columbine (the single most financially successful documentary to date).
The film will debut in theaters, then will air on prime time television broadcast. The series will be edited to air in half-, one-, or two-hour segments, depending upon the requirements of the broadcast venue.