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Netflix’s Teach Us All Shows Educational Inequality Didn’t End With Brown Vs. Board of Ed

In addition to creating searing documentaries about injustice, like her Emmy-winning 13th, Ava DuVernay also distributes worthwhile films from other talented filmmakers through her distribution company, ARRAY. The latest is a documentary called Teach Us All, which takes on the systemic inequality in education.

In the above trailer, we’re introduced to a student named Bradley Pointdexter from Little Rock who describes his life as a kid growing up in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood. Kids like him were not encouraged to strive or succeed, and either being an athlete or being a drug dealer were the only two paths through which anyone expected young men from this neighborhood to support themselves.

Meanwhile, he describes the feeling of his school administration and his teachers not particularly caring about him, or kids like him, allowing them to fall through the cracks.

He might not have cared about education at all were it not for the death of his brother in 2008. He says, “He died with a part-time job at Taco Bell. I don’t want to end up like that.” And then there was one special teacher who went the extra mile and actually asked him about himself, where he was from, and wants out of life, and got him excited about learning. Now, he sees how powerful having an education is.

Teach Us All is a documentary written, directed, and produced by Sonia Lowman, Director of Communications for the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. Here is the official synopsis, from the film’s website:

In September 1957, following the watershed Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, a group of African-American students known as the Little Rock Nine courageously attempted to defy the notion that skin color should determine educational access by integrating an all-white southern high school. Nearly 60 years after the “Little Rock Crisis,” disparities in access to quality education remain among the most urgent civil rights issues of our time. With its school district hanging in the balance following a state takeover in January 2015, contemporary Little Rock presents a microcosm of the inequities and challenges manifesting in classrooms all across America, which is seeing a re-segregation of its schools.

Through case studies in Little Rock, New York City, and Los Angeles, TEACH US ALL seeks to bring the critical lessons of history to bear on the current state of U.S. education and investigate:

60 years later, how far have we come – or not come – and where do we go from here?

Teach Us All isn’t only a film. It’s also a movement, in which people who care about making education available to everyone can participate by engaging in social action. The website has a bunch of resources that will allow you to educate, inspire, and lobby for change both at the state level, and federally.

You can watch the film on Netflix now! And then maybe you’ll be one of those people organizing a local screening of the film to spread the word and prioritize education for everyone, regardless of race or class.

(image: screencap)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.