From the NYTimes, November 18:
A shocking chronicle of institutional dysfunction, “The War on Kids” likens our public school system to prison and its disciplinary methods to fascism. At least now you know why little Johnny won’t get out of bed in the morning.
Arranged in sections that range from merely interesting to downright horrifying, this provocative documentary suggests a system regulated by fear and motivated by the desire to control. Tracing the evolution and application of zero-tolerance policies on drugs and violence, the director, Cevin Soling, amasses overwhelming evidence of institutional overreaction. When an 8-year-old can be suspended for pointing a chicken finger and saying “Pow,” we know that common sense has officially left the building.
Impassioned interviews with educators, authors and medical professionals — and some very perceptive students — warn of the consequences of surrounding children daily with armed security guards and surveillance cameras.
“They don’t really prevent anything; they just take pictures of it,” says Jessica Botcher, a student at Columbine High School. Those pictures, however, are electrifying: an armed SWAT team terrorizing high school students in South Carolina; a tiny, terrified girl being handcuffed by burly police officers. Offering neither balance nor solutions (a segment on the overuse of medications like Ritalin is especially powerful, but especially in need of counterargument), “The War on Kids” questions what kind of citizens we are producing. Parent or child-free, we all have a dog in that particular fight.
THE WAR ON KIDS
Opens on Wednesday in Manhattan.
Directed by Cevin Soling; edited by Jeremy Carr; music by Martin Trum; produced by Mr. Carr, Dawn Fidrick and Mr. Soling; released by Spectacle Films Inc. At the Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. This film is not rated.