One of the most important films about equity in education.
`When I grow up I'm going to be a person who fights for this country. I'm going to be an important person. I'm going to a good college. I'm going to fight for [people]. I want them to come to me and say, 'Thank you.' I want to be a lawyer.' Mayra, a fifth-grade student from a high-poverty school in Los Angeles, is one of the central figures in Laura Angelica Simón's Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary. Mayra lives in a small apartment with her mother and uncle, both undocumented immigrants from El Salvador. Like many of the students and parents of Hoover Elementary, a school in Pico Union (often described as the Ellis Island of Los Angeles), Mayra fears the ramifications of California's Proposition 187, which denies health care and public education to undocumented immigrants.
Simón, a teacher at Hoover and an immigrant from Mexico, unravels the complexities of the Prop. 187 debate and its impact on Mayra and other students at the school. She effectively weaves together the stories and voices of students and colleagues into a collage that powerfully illustrates the awareness and lack of awareness, compassion and lack of compassion, and anti-racism and racism that exist at Hoover (and at every school in the United States). In doing so, she introduces critical questions that cut across many educational issues: At whose expense do these public policy debates occur? Why do we bring policy debates regarding immigration into a context such as education, where children--those who have the least control over where they live--experience the most intense and detrimental impact?
Fear and Learning is progressively unique in both form and content. During an educational era in which teachers have little or no voice in local and federal policy that governs their roles and responsibilities, Simón offers a distinctive teacher perspective--one informed by her own experiences and her love and respect for students. She goes a step further by including student voices and perspectives, reminding the audience that, despite popular belief, even elementary school students understand and experience the politics of difference. In fact, as this film shows, students often offer deeper and more critical insights than adults.
Fear and Learning is one of the most important, engaging, and powerful films ever made about education, equity, and social justice in the United States. The film raises questions about race, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic class, and the intersections of these identities. It is an essential part of any multicultural or social justice education film collection.
Though it focuses on an elementary school, Fear and Learning encourages dialogue about issues that span all grade levels. As such, it is appropriate for education workshops and classes, regardless of grade level or subject area. The film can also be a useful tool for high school or college courses in American Studies, Political Science, Education Policy, Latina/o Studies, Sociology, and a variety of other fields that consider intersections of culture, policy, and the politics of difference. Parts of the film--especially those including Mayra and other students--can also be used to introduce these issues to elementary and middle school students.
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