Matt Damon Will School You: In Praise of Educators in American Teacher
One of the right wings favorite punching bagsand even, increasingly, the lefts is the teaching profession. Director Vanessa Roth, who co-produced American Teacher with Ninive Calegari and Dave Eggers and scored Matt Damon to narrate, counters the teachers-are-the-problem narrative with a corrective thats unapologetic in its teacher boosterism. What makes the film more than just a cheerleading countermove is the towering amount of research it contains: historical data tracing the profession from being the domain of men to largely that of women, and the cynical economic ploy behind the shift; terrifying figures on the rates of those fleeing the profession as well as the looming crisis of a mass retirement of elderly teachers; the sobering numbers of teachers living at the poverty level and/or holding down a second job. Putting a human face on the data are teachers of all races and backgrounds who gave Roth complete access to both their professional and personal lives, showing how the two are so deeply intertwined. Whats made powerfully clear is that weve reached a dire point of crisis that, while largely rooted in economics, is about so much more than dollars and cents. Without effective teachers, says one interviewee, we dont have an effective democracy.
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