TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Activist and filmmaker Curtis Chin will screen his education and equality documentary “Tested” on Monday, Feb. 29, at The University of Alabama.
Chin’s screening and discussion are part of the James P. Curtis Distinguished Lecture Series, hosted annually by the UA College of Education. The screening will begin at 5 p.m. in 118 Graves Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
“Tested” chronicles a dozen New York City eighth-graders from racially and socio-economically diverse backgrounds as they prepare for a single standardized test to gain admission into the city’s most elite public high schools. The documentary explores such issues as access, affirmative action and the model-minority myth, or the perception that certain minority groups have higher achievement rates.
New York City’s public school system has 1.1 million children, the largest in the country. Blacks and Hispanics make up 70 percent of New York City’s school-aged population, but they represent less than 5 percent of the students at the city’s elite public high schools.
“The film looks at equal treatment through the prism of education,” Chin said. “Are we getting a fair shake in this society? Every family is under a lot of stress, rich or poor. But rich families have options if public school doesn’t work out for them. Poor kids don’t, and they depend on public education to give them a boost.
“Low-income kids are dealing with basic issues like nutrition, and we need to talk about that. We also need to look at how we look at how kids are perceived by teachers … for instance, teachers have a tendency to over-suspended kids of color.”
Chin is on a nationwide 50-school, 10- conference tour in which he’s screening and discussing “Tested.”
Chin, a visiting scholar at New York University, is a community activist and co-founder of the Asian American Writers Workshop and Asian Pacific Americans for Progress. His first film, “Vincent Who?,” has been screened at nearly 400 colleges, nongovernmental organizations and corporations in four countries.
Chin said the solution to narrowing the achievement gap between the rich and poor and the racially diverse is simple: focus on improving families.
“Social safety nets have been cut, and families are under so much pressure,” Chin said. “The burden falls on schools, as they’re often the last place for families to get help. In order to increase achievement, you have to take a step back to see how we’re supporting families in general. You can’t just fix the schools. You have to fix everything.”
The James P. Curtis Distinguished Lecture Series was created by the board of directors of the Capstone Education Society to bring a renowned educator or public figure to the campus each year to lecture about contemporary education issues. It was named in honor of Dr. James P. Curtis, a faculty member in the College of Education for 23 years.
During his service to the University as professor of administration and educational leadership and assistant dean of the Bureau of Educational Services and Research, and through his guidance, Curtis influenced the lives and careers of countless students who have become prominent educators throughout Alabama, the United States and the world.