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The Cartel: movie review

The state of America’s public schools is given a sobering examination in the documentary ‘The Cartel.’

By Peter RainerFilm critic / April 16, 2010



If scary statistics about the state of American public school education are your thing, “The Cartel” is the place to wallow.

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Centering on the horrendous disrepair of the educational system in New Jersey, it tosses in stats such as: 38 percent of US high school seniors read at an eighth-grade level, despite the fact that this country spends more on education than any other in the world. If one uses high school completion rate as the yardstick, Americans children score among the lowest of all developed nations.

Director Bob Bowdon is in the Michael Moore mold, except his Gotcha! style of filmmaking is more likely to be supported by facts. His indignation is well placed, though he doesn’t expand his subject sufficiently beyond the confines of New Jersey.

He does interview such education experts as Gerard Robinson, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and Clint Bolick, former president of the Alliance for School Choice, but we don’t hear much about the No Child Left Behind Act, or President Obama’s attempts to rework it.

And although it’s refreshing to see a movie that stands up for charter schools and takes on teachers unions for their hammerlock on educational oversight, Bowdon overcorrects. His home state of New Jersey may not be an isolated case but neither, with its high level of corruption, should it be seen as altogether representative of all countrywide educational ills. Grade: B+

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