90+ Education Documentaries to Challenge & Inspire

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Are you interested in exploring some of the most pressing topics in recent and contemporary education? Here is a list of some of my favorites, not because I agree with them but because them make me think. Expect to be challenged, moved, inspired, troubled, educated, confused, mad, sad, and glad. These represent diverse perspectives and each one provides a platform for thinking and talking about the past, present and future of education.

  1. Tell Them We are Rising (2017) – This is the story of black colleges and universities.
  2. If You Build It (2017) – This is a documentary about shop class reimagined, students engaged in their neighborhoods.
  3. Tested (2017) – A documentary that explores the nature of tests in contemporary education.
  4. Let Girls Learn (2016) – a series of clips about girls that Michelle Obama met on our tour around the world focused on girls and education
  5. All the Difference (2016) – Here is what is possible when you give even some of the most disadvantaged students the right support and learning context.
  6. Starving the Beast (2016) – a story of de-funding in Texas higher education, but also a story about the role of government
  7. Children in the Prison (2016) – Prison and education have more connections that you might think. [The link stopped working in 2017, but I will add it back if I can find a working replacement.]
  8. Schools of the Future (2016) – How will the new science of learning impact schools and education?
  9. Night School (2016) – adult learner journeys to opportunity through a high school diploma
  10. Audrie & Daisy (2016) – the impact of online bullying on two teenage girls
  11. Study Body (2016) – An Ohio sixth-grade student journalist fights back against “fat letters” and BMI testing in schools.
  12. Screenagers (2016) – the impact of screens on kids
  13. The Bad Kids (2016) – an unconventional approach to helping struggling students
  14. 180 Days: Hartsville (2015) – a look at two schools in a small town serving largely low-income families [watch online]
  15. The Road to Teach (2015) – aspiring teachers tour the nation
  16. Education, Inc. For Profit. For Kids? (2015) – a documentary about money and schools
  17. Sex in Class (2015) a look at a controversial approach to sex education in the UK
  18. This is My Land (2015) – How is history taught in Palestine and Israel?
  19. On the Way to School (2015) – a story of what students do to get to school in different parts of the world, and the reverence that it shows for education
  20. If You Build It (2015) – learning by doing and building – the story of two teachers, ten, students, and a massive building (literally) project
  21. The Homestretch (2015) – homeless teens pursuing an education
  22. Anatomy of a Snow Day (2015) – This is one student’s inquiry into how snow days are (or are not) called. Apart from snow days, this is a model of student-centered learning.
  23. Big Dream (2015) – young women and STEM education / aspirations
  24. Most Likely to Succeed (2015) – focus on the inadequacy of an industrial model for education and an alternative school in San Diego.
  25. Rise Above the Mark (2015) – what happens when politics and/or corporations enter the classroom?
  26. Backward Class (2015) – the case system and aspirations for University
  27. The Wolfpack (2015) – the story of one isolated homeschool family
  28. Disruptive Education (2015) – a documentary that tells the story of an incredible vision for education at Acton  Academy
  29. Collaboration: On the Edge of a New Paradigm (2014 – collaboration is changing life and learning [watch online]
  30. Sex (ed) (2014)- a look at sex education in schools
  31. Humans Need Not Apply (2014) – With automation and computers doing what people did, what skills are most important for people?
  32. Mission Hill (2014) – 10-part online documentary of a very successful public school
  33. Approaching the Elephant – the story of one student’s year in a free school
  34. The New Public (2014) – focused on teaching disadvantaged children
  35. The Graduates (2014) – pressing issues in education from the perspective of 6 Latino/Latina students
  36. All American High Revisited (2014) – this is a reunion of the main characters in the 1987 education documentary, All American High
  37. Ivory Tower (2014) – Is college worth the cost?
  38. Unschooled The Film (2014) – homeschooling/unschooling
  39. Class Dismissed: A Film About Learning Outside the Classroom (2014) – homeschooling
  40. American Promise (2013) – race, class, access and opportunity
  41. Best Kept Secret (2013) – story of special education teacher helping students find a place in society after school
  42. One Child at a Time (2013) – audio documentary, digital age education, personalized learning [listen online]
  43. The Raising of America (2013) – early childhood education
  44. Technology and the 21st Century – short documentaries, educational innovators, educational technology, educational reform [watch online]
  45. Girls Rising (2013) – The story of girls in different parts of the world striving for an education amid challenging contexts
  46. Declining By Degrees (2012) – a story of higher education at risk
  47. Teach (2012) – inside the life and work of teachers, candid look at the joys and challenges of teaching
  48. Future Learning (2012) – short documentary, the future of education, education reform [watch online]
  49. Education for a Sustainable Future (2012) – how to create a socially sustainable education system [watch online]
  50. The Future of Learning – Networked Society (2012) [watch online]
  51. Chile Rising (2012) – free education vs privatized education, educational inequality [watch online]
  52. Educating Black Boys (2012) – race, stereotyping and education [watch online]
  53. The Forbidden Education (2012) – education reform, social criticism, Latin American education [watch online]
  54. The Revisionaries (2012) – textbook bias, political influence on school curricula
  55. Education for a Sustainable Future (2012) – education reform, preparing for the future [watch online]
  56. Brooklyn Castle (2012) – race and class, the impact of mentoring and extracurriculars
  57. Education Education: Why Poverty? (2012) – Chinese education system, poverty and opportunity [watch online]
  58. Two Million Minutes / A Right Denied / China Wins / Finland Phenomenon (2008-2011) – series of documentaries comparing education systems in different parts of the world
  59. American Teacher (2011) – the lived experiences of American teachers
  60. PressPausePlay (2011) – How the digital revolution is unleashing creative opportunities
  61. College Conspiracy (2011) – critiquing the promise of higher education [watch online]
  62. Free to Learn: A Radical Experiment in Education (2011) – free schooling, democratic schooling, student-led education, self-directed learning [watch online]
  63. The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman (2011) – ed reform, critique of charter schools and private influences on public education [watch online]
  64. Bully (2011) – bullying, school safety
  65. Building Hope (2011) – intercultural education, Kenyan education
  66. Digital Nation – Frontline (2011)- digital culture and youth [watch online]
  67. Project Happiness (2011) – the pursuit of happiness
  68. Precious Knowledge (2011) – social criticism, social-political influences on curriculum, Mexican American studies in Tucson schools
  69. The Cartel (2010) – education reform, social issues, political influences
  70. The Lottery (2010) – school lotteries, charter school, parent choice, access and opportunity
  71. Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden (2010) – influence of Western education around the world, social-cultural issues, contrasting philosophies of education, education reform
  72. Waiting for Superman (2010) – critique of American public education [watch online]
  73. Teached (2009) – race and the achievement gap
  74. Stupid in America (2009) – school culture and climate concerns [watch online]
  75. Ten9Eight: Shoot for the Moon (2009) – educational access and opportunity, inspirational (follows ten teenage entrepreneurs)
  76. Race to Nowhere (2009) – education reform, critique of testing culture, school climate and culture
  77. The War on kids (2009) – education reform, critique of schools as autocratic systems
  78. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed – intelligent design in education, social/political perspectives on curriculum
  79. Flunked (2008) – survey of high-performing schools
  80. Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood (2008) – social criticism [watch online]
  81. Resolved (2007) – high school debate meets racial and class bias
  82. Final Score (2007) – high-stakes testing, education in Thailand
  83. Please Vote for Me (2007) – education in China, democracy in education, school culture
  84. Wings of Evolution (2007) – education in India, social criticism, access and opportunity
  85. The Pact (2006) – educational access and opportunity, inspirational
  86. The World’s Best Prom (2006) – prom, school culture and climate
  87. The World According to Sesame Street (2006) – educational television
  88. Mad Hot Ballroom (2005) – on teaching ballroom dancing in school and the impact on the lives of students
  89. Being Human (2005) – education reform, low-performing schools, school climate and culture
  90. The Education of Shelby Knox (2005) – sex education, curriculum in public education
  91. Rock School (2005) – an interesting take of music education
  92. Children Full of Life (2003) – inspirational teaching, education in a Tokyo classroom [watch online]
  93. American Experience: The Monkey Trail – creation/evolution in public education
  94. Why Do These Kids Love School? (1999) – innovative schooling, independent schools, self-directed learning, creativity in schools
  95. All American High (1987) – the story of a year in the life of an American high school from a Finish exchange student perspective
  96. A Class Divided (1985) – the classic story of one teacher’s attempt to teach about racism and prejudice [watch online]
  97. A City Decides (1956) – racial integration in St. Louis

2 thoughts on “90+ Education Documentaries to Challenge & Inspire

  1. ralphsherman

    Wow, what a list. Did you curate this yourself Bernard? It is good to study all points of view. One never knows what they might have in common if you don’t.

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