Recent Documentaries

This fall American RadioWorks released four hour-long radio documentaries focused on K-12 and higher education. Visit the links below to listen and read more of our work:

The Living Legacy: Black Colleges in the 21st Century
Before the civil rights movement, African Americans were largely barred from white-dominated institutions of higher education. And so black Americans, and their white supporters, founded their own schools, which came to be known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCU graduates helped launch the civil rights movement, built the black middle class, and staffed the pulpits of black churches and the halls of almost every black primary school before the 1960s. But after desegregation, some people began to ask whether HBCUs had outlived their purpose. Yet for the students who attend them, HBCUs still play a crucial — and unique — role. In this documentary, we hear first-person testimony from students about why they chose an HBCU; and we travel to an HBCU that’s in the process of reinventing itself wholesale.

Teaching Teachers
Research shows good teaching makes a big difference in how much kids learn. But the United States lacks an effective system for training new teachers or helping them get better once they’re on the job. This documentary examines why, and asks what it would take to improve American teaching on a wide scale. We meet researchers who are trying to understand what makes teaching complex, and how to determine whether someone is ready to be a teacher. We also visit U.S. schools that are taking a page from Japan and radically rethinking the way they approach the idea of teacher improvement.

From Boots to Books: Student Veterans and the New GI Bill
The longest war in American history is drawing to a close. Now, the men and women who served are coming home, and many hope to use higher education to build new, better lives. They have help from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a piece of legislation that many advocates say offers more support to returning veterans than any policy since the original GI Bill of 1944. In this documentary, we explore how the first GI Bill revolutionized the lives of millions of young veterans, America’s institutions of higher education, and American society at large. But America’s economic and academic systems have changed, and veterans today are returning to a very different reality than their predecessors.

Beyond the Blackboard: Building Character in Public Schools
In the 1940s a British headmaster named Kurt Hahn set up a wilderness school called Outward Bound to teach young men the skills they needed to survive World War II — skills like leadership, persistence, and working together. Hahn believed these were skills conventional schools should focus on too. Fifty years later, Hahn’s ideas about education inspired the founding of a network of public schools in the United States. Students in these schools outperform their peers when it comes to test scores and graduation rates — and also motivation, academic engagement and problem-solving ability. This documentary explores the “Expeditionary Learning” approach, traces the history of ideas that led to its inception, and investigates what American schools could learn from its success.