New School Order (1997)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Social Issues, Politics & Government, Race & Ethnicity  |   Run Time - 56 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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A certain conversation-starter, this documentary takes a disturbing look at a growing tendency for some conservative school boards to use their positions to promote their religious beliefs and agendas at the expense of the students' education and well-being. Landsdale, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, is a community divided over whether or not to build a new high school to remedy the overcrowding in North Penn High School. The multi-cultural community is comprised of young families with children and a large senior citizen population. School taxes in the area are already high and with the construction of a new school, they promise to increase. This angers the area senior citizens who fear the raises will cut into their retirement. The young families, worried about the quality of their children's education, are also angry. Into this heated mixture comes the school board, headed by the controversial Donna Mengel, a conservative Christian woman who has been called to task for publicly making blatantly anti-Semitic comments. A staunch supporter of her older voters, Mengel was largely responsible for defeating the bid for a new school and for curtailing school programs that clashed with her ideology. Such classes included those dealing with sex and drugs, multicultural sensitivity classes, art, music and athletic programs. Mengel's agenda is supported by three (out of nine) other board members who go to the same church. The film not only delves into their tactics, it also makes a strong point about the effectiveness of grassroots political activism.