Back to school screenings

When I visited Facebook this morning, my news feed was filled with back-to-school photos, which I happily “liked” because they feature the children of people who are special to me. (Nothing is more important to a parent than the indescribable love they feel for their children.) I did the same last month for parents who were permitted to take photos of their kids starting college. Indeed, one could argue that, for the helicopter parent generation, Facebook exists largely so that we can keep each other posted of our kids’ milestones.

I couldn’t help noticing though, that the faces of the older kids were less eager than the elementary school students (one exception being the new ninth-graders). This led me to reflect on an observation made by a friend, a former colleague on the Princeton Board of Education: that school — specifically high school — is largely unchanged from the time he attended in the 1980s. The same can be said of my high school experience in the ’70s and that of my older siblings in the ’60s. If the traditional – and invariable – method of delivering instruction worked well for every student, that would be the end of this post. Sadly, that’s not the case. Even in the best school districts, external pressures, such as state and national government oversight, and certain internal dynamics can result in groups of students who just aren’t being served.

The good news is that there are people trying to reinvent the way we teach kids. Some of them are featured in a new film called “Beyond Measure,” which the library will be presenting with Princeton Public Schools on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at John Witherspoon Middle School. The film will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with Steve Cochrane, superintendent of Princeton Public Schools; Jane Fremon, founder and head of Princeton Friends School and Joel Hammon, co-founder and director of Princeton Learning Cooperative. Filmmaker Vickio Albeles expands on the topics covered in the film in a book, which will be available for purchase after the screening.

“Beyond Measure” is part of the three-film Teaching and Learning series, including the groundreaking 2009 documentary “Race to Nowhere” on Monday, Oct. 5, and a well-regarded film about an experimental school for elementary-school-age children in Little Falls, “Approaching the Elephant“, which screens on Thursday, Oct. 8. Registration is required for the “Race to Nowhere” and “Beyond Measure” screenings. Check after Sept. 21 for a link to the reservation page. 

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