BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

Documentarian Rory Kennedy exposes inequalities in America’s education system.

Aired on December 6, 2018 and February 18, 2020.

TRANSCRIPT

> WITHOUT A NET THE DIGITAL DIVIDE IN AMERICA IS A NEW DOCUMENTARY NARRATED BY JAMIE FOXX.

THE FILM CASTS A LIGHT ON AMERICA'S PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM AND THE PURPORTED INEQUALITIES THAT KEEP UNDERPRIVILEGED STUDENTS SOMETIMES IN DIGITAL DARKNESS, CAUSING AN EMOTIONAL AND ECONOMIC STRAIN ON OUR NATION'S YOUTH.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK.

THE WAY THAT IT WORKS IS WE HAVE CODE ON A LAPTOP THAT WE CAN THEN DOWNLOAD ON TO THE BRAIN OF THE ROBOT HERE.

TODAY IN SCHOOL I DON'T THINK I WILL USE A COMPUTER AT ALL.

OUR HOPES FOR THE FUTURE ARE VERY TECHNOLOGY DEPENDENT.

NOT HAVING INTERNET HAS BEEN DIFFICULT BECAUSE MOST EVERYTHING IS INTERNET BASED, SO THERE'S A LOT MORE STRESS ON THE STUDENTS TO FIND A WAY TO ACTUALLY DO HOMEWORK.

IT'S JUST EXCITING KNOWING THAT I'M GOING TO GO TO COLLEGE, LIKE MY DREAM IS COMING TRUE.

WE GREW UP LIVING POOR.

WE WANT TO SEE WHAT IT'S LIKE TO HAVE A CHANCE.

I'M JOINED NOW BY THE FILM'S DIRECTOR ATTACKED ME AWARD NOMINATED RORY KENNEDY.

ALWAYS NICE TO SEE.

YOU GREAT TO BE HERE.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

YOUR FATHER THE LATE ROBERT KENNEDY WAS SO FOCUSED ON THE NOTION OF EDUCATION AND EQUALITY WITHIN EDUCATION.

SO WHAT DREW YOU, THEN, TO THIS SUBJECT FOR THIS FILM?

WELL, THANK YOU.

I THINK THAT MY FAMILY HISTORY PROBABLY HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT FOR SURE AND MY FAMILY'S COMMITMENT TO SOCIAL EQUALITY AND PARTICULARLY AROUND ISSUES CONNECTED TO EDUCATION.

SO I THINK IT WAS FOR ME A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO SHED LIGHT NOT JUST ON THE DIGITAL DIVIDE IN AMERICA, BUT KIND OF THE LARGER ISSUE THAT IT SPEAKS TO, THE INEQUALITIES THAT CHILDREN, PARTICULARLY CHILDREN FROM POOR ECONOMIC BACKGROUNDS FACE.

BUT ALSO IN THE FILM YOU LOOK AT HOW WE ARE STACKING UP, IF YOU WILL, AND HOW WE'RE APPROACHING THE DIGITAL EDUCATION WORLD IN OUR COUNTRY COMPARED TO OTHER COUNTRIES.

SO THESE KIDS ARE BEING LEFT BEHIND AND WHAT WE ARE FINDING IS THAT IT NOT ONLY AFFECTS THOSE INDIVIDUAL CHILDREN AND LEAVES THEM IN THE DARK AND MAKES THEM ILL EQUIPPED TO BECOME PART OF THE JOB CYCLE WHEN THEY GRADUATE, BUT IT'S ALSO LEAVING OUR COUNTRY BEHIND.

IF YOU LOOK AT THIS ISSUE, PEOPLE MIGHT BE TEMPTED TO TAKE A FAIRLY SIMPLISTIC APPROACH TO IT IN TERMS OF SOLUTIONS, OKAY, ALL WE HAVE TO DO, THEN, IS LET'S GET COMPUTERS IN EVERY SCHOOL, MAKE SURE EVERY KID HAS A LAPTOP AND WE'RE DONE.

YOU TELL AN INTERESTING STORY IN THE FILM ABOUT A SCHOOL WHERE JUST THAT HAPPENED.

TELL US ABOUT THAT STORY.

WHAT WE FOUND IS THAT IN ORDER TO REALLY ADDRESS THE ISSUE WE HAVE TO DO IT IN A HOLISTIC MANNER.

SO WHAT THAT MEANS IS THAT WE HAVE TO GIVE THE KIDS THE EQUIPMENT, THE COMPUTERS, IN OTHER WORDS, SO THAT THEY CAN WORK AND INTERACT, BUT YOU ALSO NEED TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE CONNECTED TO THE WIFI AND THAT THE WIFI IS ADEQUATE.

I THINK WE HAVE ALL EXPERIENCED VERY FRUSTRATING MOMENTS WHERE YOU GET ON YOUR COMPUTER AND THE LITTLE CIRCLE GOES AND THE COMPUTER WON'T WORK AND YOU WANT TO THROW THE COMPUTER OUT THE WINDOW AND THIS HAPPENS DAY IN AND DAY OUT IN THESE CLASSROOMS.

YOU FEEL THIS MESSAGE BEING SENT TO THESE KIDS, WHICH IS, YOU KNOW, WE'RE NOT INVESTING IN YOU AND WE DON'T CARE ENOUGH FOR YOU TO BE CONNECTED.

SO WHAT HAPPENS IS IF THEY DON'T HAVE THAT CONNECTIVITY, THEY DON'T HAVE THE HARDWARE AND THEN THE THIRD PIECE OF THE PUZZLE IS TEACHING THE TEACHERS AND TRAINING THEM ADEQUATELY TO USE THIS EQUIPMENT --

LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THAT, RORY, IF I CAN, BECAUSE I WAS STRUCK BY A PART OF THIS NARRATIVE WHERE IT SAID THAT SOME PERHAPS 60% OF TEACHERS WHO ARE ASKED SAID THAT THEY DON'T FEEL THAT THEY HAVE THE ADEQUATE TRAINING AND THE PREPARATION TO JUMP IN AND BE ABLE TO HELP THEIR STUDENTS.

WERE YOU SURPRISED BY THAT?

I WAS.

YOU KNOW, IT WAS DISCOURAGING AND THAT'S A PART OF THE REASON WHY WE MADE THIS FILM IS TO HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM.

THAT'S A BIG ISSUE.

I MEAN, YOU CAN IMAGINE EVEN IF YOU HAVE A COMPUTER IN THE CLASSROOM AND EVEN IF YOU HAVE WIFI IS THE TEACHERS WHO MIGHT BE IN THEIR 50s OR 60s HAVEN'T BEEN TRAINED IN HOW TO USE THAT.

ONCE YOU TRAIN THEM THERE'S HUGE OPPORTUNITIES.

LAST QUESTION FOR YOU.

IN LOOKING AT THE FILM YOU'VE CLEARLY, AS I SAID BEFORE, YOU'VE PUT YOUR LENS, YOU HAVE FOCUSED ON THESE PROBLEMS THAT WE ARE HAVING HERE.

SO THE QUESTION THEN BECOMES, ALL RIGHT, WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?

YOU MENTIONED BEFORE MOVING FORWARD.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO BE DOING TO MOVE FORWARD SO THAT WE CAN SHRINK THIS DIGITAL DIVIDE?

YEAH.

WELL, THANK YOU FOR ASKING THAT.

I THINK THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS, YOU KNOW, IN WHAT WE DO PROFILE IN THE FILM IS MODELS THAT ARE WORKING.

SO THERE'S A RANGE OF SOLUTIONS, SOMETIMES, YOU KNOW, IT'S INNOVATION ON THE COMMUNITY LEVEL FROM THE TEACHERS AND THE PARENTS AND THE SCHOOL BOARD, SAY WE ARE GOING TO INVEST IN THIS.

YOU KNOW, IT DOES COME DOWN TO MONEY IN MANY RESPECTS AND SO GETTING THE CORPORATIONS INVOLVED, FOUNDATIONS INVOLVED AT THE LOCAL LEVEL MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE.

WE NEED OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO SAY THIS IS A PRIORITY.

WELL, YOU HAVE CREATED A FILM THAT IS REVEALING, IT'S TROUBLING AND IT'S PROVOCATIVE.

ONCE AGAIN, IT'S CALLED WITHOUT A NET, THE DIGITAL DIVIDE IN AMERICA.

RORY KENNEDY, IT'S ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO TALK WITH YOU.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR WORK AND WE WILL LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING TO YOU AGAIN.

YOU TAKE CARE.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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