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American Promise
February 16, 2014 5:13 PM   Subscribe

American Promise is a PBS documentary (live streaming through March 6) that follows two middle class African-American boys, Idris and Seun, who enter The Dalton School as young children, and follows them for 13 years.

Slate podcast with Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, the husband-and-wife team behind American Promise.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (14 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, thanks for posting.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:19 PM on February 16


Literally just finished watching 56 Up. I'll definitely check this out. Thanks!
posted by sutt at 5:47 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


TUITION FOR 2013-2014
Grades K-12: $40,220

At Dalton, the full cost of books and lunch is included in the annual tuition. Depending on a student's interests and needs, there may be some additional incidentals (such as the After School Program or student activities in the high school) with an extra cost.


$320,000 to go from K-12.

But lunches are free.
posted by efalk at 5:52 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I caught the latter part of this a few weeks ago. It made me realize how non-type A my parents were. Dunno if I'm thankful for that or not.
posted by todayandtomorrow at 6:45 PM on February 16


I'm interested in watching this, given that I teach in a school among the same circle of NYC independent schools as Dalton. Our tuition is a couple thousand less, and certainly not insignificant, but its worth noting that the tuition (over those 13 years) has probably been a fair amount less when they were in K. My guess is about half as much, so that 320,000 figure might be a bit off. Nothing to dismiss, for sure but the overall total is probably rather different.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:36 PM on February 16




It ranks 5th in sending kids to Harvard, Princeton, or Yale yet most of their notable alumni seem to be actors. Dalton is the most expensive acting school on earth.
posted by any major dude at 7:36 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


It made me realize how non-type A my parents were. Dunno if I'm thankful for that or not.

I'm at the part where they're 16 and and Idris's family is totally what I missed out on with my mom and my brother because I was in college for my brother's last two years of high school. I don't know if it's type A-ness or not (though they certainly seemed terribly type A in the beginning)--I wouldn't call my mom type A exactly, but a lot of the shouting about school is awfully familiar.
posted by hoyland at 7:49 PM on February 16


We have high expectations with our kids about school, but just about the basics - being on time, completing homework, paying attention to spelling, making sure they stay on top of math (since the core concepts are the building blocks of later understanding and success).

So yeah we do give a shit, and our kids know the kinds of expectations we have, and what happens if they don't meet our expectations (no gaming).


We also spend part of the year in Japan, and our kids go to school here. Because of social dynamic (I am a foreigner) there is greater pressure to "do things right" so nobody thinks we can't do something because we are foreigners. This extends to ensuring getting good grades on kanji tests. In other years, our eldest often performed better than the other kids in class who have lived here all their lives.

To a certain extent, though, doing well on spelling tests and essay and all that stuff really indicates that you are *good at school.*

This is one of the reasons why so many kids go into liberal arts programs - they were good at school, so it's natural to continue going to school (university) because you are good at school.

So I certainly would never want to tell my kids what to do after high school graduation, but give them the tools to choose for themselves.

Something I am thinking of doing is starting up a business that, by the time they reach high school and university age, they can take over. Gardening or something.

So if they want to be entrepreneurial (which, in our post-industrial knowledge economy, is what it is going to take to ensure one's needs are met, and one does not have to work at Starbucks post-grad), at least they can have that, while studying whatever they want in university.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:10 PM on February 16


I took the $320k figure from the Dalton website.

That's awesome that people can spend that much educating their kids, but I knew people that went to Stanford from public high schools. If people are spending that much on a k-12 education, there's a lot of things wrong with this country, and its not just public education standards.
posted by efalk at 8:24 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


omg the "product of the diaspora" kid I love her
posted by divabat at 11:38 PM on February 16


This is so sad. Those kids, especially Idris, seem to be under such extreme pressure, and seem to be massively depressed as a result. I can't really bring myself to blame the parents. I think they are just so worried that if they and their kids don't do everything exactly right that their kids won't be able to make it as an adult. Of course, racism fuels the parents fears and Idris' isolation and depression. But I think the real problem is the post-industrial difficulty of achieving any kind of comfortable middle-class existence without lots of education which not everyone is going to be able to achieve. We have to be able to find a way to re-structure our economy, our society, our priorities. Kids and families are just under such brutal pressure that I don't see how we can sustain this. This is no way to live.
posted by marsha56 at 9:11 AM on February 17 [2 favorites]


marsha56: yeah, I got really concerned when at the end Idris didn't get into Stanford and his parents start berating him for being lazy. Kid's doing the best he can to get by! I checked out the American Promise website and I wonder how much of their metrics of success is still predicated on college enrollment as opposed to anything else.
posted by divabat at 2:21 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


There is a playlist of very short outtakes here. Each is about a minute long.

Some of them are more scenes of the boys daily life, some are more discussion from the parents. Some are commentary from experts in the field of childhood development, especially as related to the African American population.

I found all of them interesting and illuminating.
posted by marsha56 at 4:23 PM on February 17


The pressure on those children seems immense. I was so relieved when Idris decided to move across the country. You can tell his parents love him and want the best for him but what a burden they all carry.

I see students struggling with similar pressures at the college where I work. It is an excellent school and very competitive. The students work so hard and many have parents that are equally demanding. I tell myself it isn't healthy, but then find myself pushing my own young son to perform. Many of those homework sessions had a very familiar edge to them. We are not a visible minority, so I also have to acknowledge that being white makes things easier once again. In that sense our family has less to prove.
posted by Cuke at 6:37 PM on February 17


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