At one of the schools documented in Cevin Soling’s new film, The War on Kids, an 8-year-old student was arrested for pointing a chicken finger at another student and saying “Pow!.” In the ten years since the massacre at Columbine High School, school shootings have unnerved parents and educators. Filmmakers and activists have repeatedly asked why violence in schools has increased, and schools have poured money into preventative measures. The War on Kids explores the ramifications of those measures.
Soling’s documentary, now playing at the Quad Cinema in New York, argues that public schools are instruments of fear and oppression in the lives of children. Reviews in both the New York Times and Variety are quick to note that the film’s reporting could be more balanced, but neither dismisses its claims as outlandish, either. The film uses shocking images–of which you’ll get a taste in the trailer–of armed guards, police dogs and handcuffs to emphasize its points. It drifts, too, into analysis of other ways in which children are oppressed by adult institutions–namely, the over-prescription of drugs like Ritalin. Clearly, efforts to keep children–or adults, for that matter–healthy and safe can all too often lead to passivity and fear.
Watch the trailer below and, if you’re a fan of the Colbert Report, watch Soling’s appearance on the show tonight at 11:30 on Comedy Central.
The War on Kids [Official Website]
The War on Kids Review [Variety, 11/17/09]
The War on Kids: What Ails Public Schools? Better Ask, What Doesn’t? [The New York Times, 11/18/09]