1968: a public high school in Philadelphia.
This is what Frederick Wiseman, America’s most famous documentary maker, trained his camera on 56 years ago, in High School. A dandy film, it reveals perfectly the unkillable regimentation in modern schools, although the classrooms in this particular, predominately white school do not drive us to the kind of despair that dysfunctional schools in 2023 do. Still, there are problems, regimentation or no. Bad behavior runs its course, albeit we don’t see any violence or cussing out of teachers. There is some fluff in the instruction: one teacher guides her students to appreciate the “poetry” of Paul Simon. She reads aloud the lyrics to “The Dangling Conversation,” then plays a tape of the song. And clinical lectures about sex just might have run counter to the moral values of many of the kids’ 1968 parents.
On the other hand, a Spanish-language teacher inculcates what seems to be the Spanish for “existentialist philosopher.” Nope: this is not a 2023 public school.