MTV: The Dropout Chronicles
What struck me the most about watching the kids featured in this documentary was that they had almost insurmountable obstacles to graduating. I admit, I was shocked. I am aware of living a privileged life, but I found myself thinking, before watching this documentary, "It's like walking. How hard is it to keep from dropping out of high school?" But what is perhaps misleading about the title of this show is the word dropout: Most of these kids are only days away from high school graduation, but, as the tagline reminds us, only one out of the three main players will graduate. This is predominantly due to failing grades at the 11th hour. It is not a conscious decision on any of these kids' part to drop out. They all have career goals and they all want to graduate.
The documentary, which will run again according to our insiders, talks to kids from coast to coast, of all ages. They talk to kids who have regrets, in their early twenties, about dropping out of high school, in addition to the three main players. The three main players are Maxine, from San Diego, Glendy, from the projects in the Bronx, and Sean from Miami.
None of the parents of these kids has graduated from high school. Maxine's mother is supportive, but feels that Maxine has to make her own choices and take charge of her own life. Glendy seems to be the most driven: Her parents are immigrants from the Dominican Republic. They are very aware of the opportunities denied to them by not graduating from high school, so they are the most supportive of their child's goals. Glendy has a major commute just to get to school, including walking through the projects, taking a city bus, and then the train to get to school.
Sean's father works at a car wash and has watched his athletic dreams vanish. He wants a different life for Sean; we do not meet Sean's mother. Like Maxine and Glendy, Sean has struggled academically. And like Maxine, his graduation depends largely on his final performance in his classes: His grades will ultimately be what holds him back.
The statistics about high school dropouts are pretty grim, and the documentary is laced with them. The documentary was made with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and MTV encourages kids to use the Internet to help them make the most of their education. Most of the students interviewed reported that they had no support from parents, guidance counselors, or teachers about finding colleges, requirements, job possibilities. Most of these kids, sadly enough, are on their own. Not surprisingly, kids who are growing up with socioeconomic disadvantages are the ones who are not making it to graduation. Anyone who has ever said or thought that everyone in this country has equal opportunities to succeed should watch this documentary: That idea is patently false.
It's pretty interesting in light of certain acts of legislation in recent years: Which kids are getting left behind now, and why?
MTV was wildly successful at getting young people to take back the vote. They conclude with Glendy encouraging kids to take back the education that is rightfully theirs. If anybody can convince kids, MTV can.