Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Cartel

Film Review by Kam Williams


Headline: Expose’ Uncovers Cronyism at Heart of N.J. Public Education System


            I got the shock of my life soon after graduating from college when I tried teaching in an inner city public school. I was totally unprepared for an educational system which had already failed the students entering my high school English classes. Since I had only attended parochial schools, I was unfamiliar with the practice of awarding social promotions which sent functional-illiterates on to the next grade even though they had never learned to read.

Before I left to look for another line of work at the end of the year, I never really received an adequate answer from the head of my department as to why I was being forced to pass 90% of the kids in my class, when less than a third had mastered the material. What good would it do them to get a diploma, if they couldn’t really read, write or do basic arithmetic?

 Thus, I found The Cartel to be thoroughly refreshing, for this chilling expose’ confirmed for me exactly the extent of the entrenched corruption truly dedicated teachers remain up against. Directed by intrepid investigative journalist Bob Bowdon, this damning documentary blows the cover off the state of affairs in New Jersey’s public schools, where educational concerns take a back seat to the salaries and benefits of the teachers and staff.

According to Bowdon, cronyism is rampant in the Garden State, where only 45% of the high school grads are actually ready for college. And although New Jersey ranks #1 in the amount of money devoted to public education, its students only rank 37th in SAT scores. The problem starts with excessive administration pay and is compounded by a teachers’ union more devoted to protecting its members than to helping kids. This explains why the organization runs a misleading TV ad boasting that Jersey has the best graduation rate in the country when it’s really 24th.

In addition, the state is broken up into 616 school districts, which inflates costs, as this in turn necessitates the wasteful duplication of superintendents, principals and other non-classroom employees. Sadly, this arrangement hurts the inner city the most, where the dwindling tax base translates into less funds, more violence in the halls and a mere 12% student proficiency in Mathematics.

An eye-opening film that makes the best case yet for making vouchers available as an option for parents of children stuck in woefully underperforming schools.


Excellent (4 stars)


Running time:  minutes

Studio: Bowdon Media


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