Friday, January 15, 2010

Film Review: The Cartel

How bad is the state of public education in America? There are few people who deny the glaring discrepancy between money put in and product put out. Plenty of people have plenty of opinions about where the blame ultimately lies... with what can tend to be a monolithic amalgamation of special interests and powerful politics, the causes are myriad. Or are they?

Enter filmmaker Bob Bowdon's excellent feature-length documentary The Cartel. I had the privilege of viewing a screening of it last night at an event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Already a winner of 5 festival awards, the film will be released this spring in over a dozen major American cities.

Focused mainly on the education system in New Jersey, the film follows many avenues of thought regarding the main culprits in the struggle for success in the public school system. While of course there are plenty of good schools and good teachers, the numbers of dropouts are staggering and the national test scores belie the notion that more money equals more better.

The film is quite brilliantly made... well-paced, superbly edited, many times hilarious, and also often quite poignant. And infuriating. Yes, there are many causes of the problems, from corruption and cronyism to apathy and ignorance, but, like many other issues facing our nation, the solution really might be as simple as this: let the free market reign.

This film is a great reminder that a monopoly -- a cartel, if you will -- of interests designed to limit competition also limit freedom, hope, and success, and it gives the viewer something so many clearly and sadly lack... a really good education.

For more information about how one can see the film, sign up for updates here.

I will be interviewing the filmmaker live today at 2pm, and will post a link to that here later as well.

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