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Film Screening: The New Public

Parsons SPACE will be hosting a screening of “The New Public,” a new film directed by Jyllian Gunther. The screening is scheduled for Saturday October 26th at 1pm in the Theresa Lang Center, second floor of 55 West 13th Street.

In 2006, former DJ, point guard and teacher turned first-time principal James O’Brien opened a small public high school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where 1/3 of residents live below the poverty line and the graduation rate is 40%. With infectious optimism, O’Brien and his team of eight undertook an unconventional and ambitious mission: Create a school with an arts-oriented curriculum that emphasizes self-development, community collaboration and social change. Initially, the buzz from everyone was that this was a dream come true. But conflicts arose when untested idealism was challenged by long-standing realities far bigger than school.

Over four years, this heartfelt verité film follows the journey of students, parents and educators striving to make a difference in the futures of young people whose lives are stark representations of our country’s education and opportunity gaps. Through the prism of one inner-city public school, we witness complexities faced by urban public schools and communities everywhere.

Our Teaching From Experience screening campaign seeks to connect stakeholders — with a particular emphasis on PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS — in each community: parent organizations and local urban high school educators; high school students and teaching college students; experienced educators and good government groups. The aim is to spark discussion and promote collaboration between community members who are invested in improving our urban public education system. The goals of the tour reflect and build upon the community ethos of BCAM (the high school featured in the film) and the collaborative process used to make the film.
We have the honor of having Teachers College, Columbia University, create a detailed companion curriculum for the film to be used by teaching colleges nationwide. The goal is to provide teachers-in-training with an up-close look at the day-to-day challenges faced by educators. Leading this project is Anand R. Marri, Assistant Professor of Social Studies and Education. Professor Marri also co-authored the curriculum for Spike Lee’s HBO documentary When the Levees Broke. We expect it to be complete in spring 2014.
Also in the works are one-sheet discussion guides for educators, students and parents to help foster meaningful exploration of the issues raised in the film. In keeping with our emphasis on collaboration, the guide is being created by a a team of four educators, each of whom has experience working with a different stakeholder constituency. Leading this project is Rebecca Tatistcheff, School Designer for NYC Outward Bound Schools, in collaboration with Michael J. Dumas, Assistant Professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University; Kersha Smith, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York; and Kevin Greer, co-founder and English Department Chair at BCAM. The discussion guide will be ready by October 2013 and will be available to anyone who screens the film.