Ben Oliver

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The War On Kids

The parallels with prison are powerful
19 January 2014

A clever statement of affairs, which paints a black as night picture of the American education system. The message quickly gets reptitive, but its central point successfully questions the very priciples we adhere to when it comes to schooling children.

The film is persuasive thanks to its use of real world examples and direct (ok, perhaps a little over cooked) comparisons of a typical school and a prison. One simply can’t deny that from an educational point of view, the prisoners are getting the better deal, and it’s shocking.

You can feel Soling losing his cool a little when we start to delve into the effects of prescription drugs and the like. Yes, perhaps medication is an easy way out, and yes, we know it causes life-long development damage and potential addiction. The problem is, what I’ve just said gets repeated over and over for fifteen minutes. Still, the parallels are powerful; when the effects of drugs and prescription medication are compared they are alarmingly similar. What’s missing is any degree of moderation when it comes to this. The rest of the film admits that the current system suits some but not all children, but medication is universally bad. Surely there are some people who have been positively affected by these drugs?

The eternal problem remains with all documentaries that try to ‘make a point’ - it’s too easy to find yourself forming an opinion directly contrary to what is being said. Although overall this is a level-headed film, it could have benefited from a little more subtlety when trying to hammer the message home. ‘Hammer’ being the key word. It feels like it’s a ‘conspiracy movie’ when it isn’t, which in itself is a failing.

Worth your time if you’re interested in education, and definite food for thought.

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