The long-lived debate over charter schools and their value is far from over, with both sides seemingly gaining strength. In the documentary, Backpack Full of Cash, several experts and politicians shared their opinions on the issue. A key scene that I would like to focus on is the scene where they showcased Boris, the son of a single-mother who is also an immigrant, and his challenging journey to school every morning.
In the beginning of the documentary, the filmmakers showed Boris and his mom buying school supplies for his school––a traditional public school. Later, the filmmakers show Boris and his mom crying together over the news that that school had just been closed due to poor test scores and lack of funding. Boris had no choice but to attend another school that was about a thirty-minute walk each way from his house. Boris’ story is unique, but not surprising when all of the information regarding traditional and charter schools is taken into account. The filmmakers help to highlight Boris’ story by juxtaposing the first part of his story with the second. In the start, Boris and his mother are both happily shopping without any worrying about the future, because there was no thought in their minds that something as horrible as a school closing could happen to them. Contrastingly, the second part of his story is full of heartache, disappointment, and fear for the future. He and his mother are shown at the front of their old school crying and then Boris is shown walking to his school for more than thirty minutes. The sadness of the latter scene is emphasized by slow, daunting music and elongated transitions. By doing this, the filmmakers subtly, yet effectively got their point across that the privatization of public schools is not good and only harms innocent individuals and their families.
Furthermore, there are some people online who are critical of the documentary, especially targeting Matt Damon, the narrator, and his sending of his own kids to private schools while targeting charter schools in this film. I, however, think that this is due to the utter lack of understanding of just what traditional schools are vs. charter schools vs. private schools. A lot of people think that a school is either public or private without any room for grey area, but in reality there is so much more to it. Just because Matt Damon sends his children to private schools does not mean that he believes that there should not be public schools. Damon explained in an interview with The Washington Post in 2017 that he did this documentary “because it tells the important story of how current education reform policies are increasing inequality and causing harm to our most vulnerable children.” (USA today). Additionally, one person commented on an online forum, “I thought I knew how charters worked, and didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. WOW. Parents, educators and tax payers of all ages would do well to become informed…” (Matt Wells, Facebook). This proves that this film’s goal of helping people better understand how charter schools work was fulfilled. Overall, there are many positive comments about this film, but the negative ones are the ones that really caught most people’s attention… and I attribute these negative comments largely to a misunderstanding of the system.
In conclusion, the usage of charter schools to “mend” public education is a cop-out, and can best be described as “holding it together with duct tape.” Politicians need to make it a priority to invest more in traditional public schools, and therefore do away with charter schools who take money away from the traditional schools that need it most. We, as a country, need to prioritize our children over the monetary gain of a few large corporates. Our children are the future, and we need to invest in them and their education as such.
“Is ‘Backpack Full of Cash’ on the Money?” USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/10/05/backpack-full-cash-money/736503001/. Accessed 9 Apr. 2019.
Moodle at Trinity Login, moodle.trincoll.edu/mod/kalvidres/view.php?id=80338.
Wells, Matt, director. Facebook. Facebook, Liane Groth Hulka, 1 Mar. 2019, www.facebook.com/pg/backpackfullofcash/reviews/.