Category Archives: Controversy & Conversation

"Social Mobility." Arken, Copenhagen. By Elmgreen and Dragset

Why Public Investment in Higher Education Is Good for the Economy

By Lauren Schudde

Social mobility—where an individual rises above his or her social and economic origins—is a key feature of the American Dream. Today, education, particularly a college education, is the means through which a person “works hard” to “get ahead.” The individual stands to benefit from both the skills and the credential gained through higher education, reaping higher earnings and prestige through new opportunities.

But does higher education only offer private returns? Or does society—the public—stand to gain something from an individual attaining more education? This question is at the heart of the constant battle over state budgets across the country. Educational allocations have been among the first on the chopping block in the name of fiscal conservatism. The narrative that pursuing a college degree is the best way to advance one’s career bolsters support for the usefulness of higher education, but also undermines the understanding that public higher education serves the greater good.

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The University of Texas at Austin campus

Documenting the Power Struggle on College Campuses

Director Steve Mims discusses the making of Starving the Beast
By Steve Mims

Easily the best part of working on any film is that is thrusts you out into a world populated with potentially fascinating people. Documentary and fiction projects put you into proximity with people you otherwise would have never met, and sometimes in the company of experts in their respective fields. When Joe Bailey, Jr. and I made Incendiary: The Willingham Case, we got to spend an afternoon with fire scientist Gerald Hurst, a brilliant, personable, and opinionated expert in arson evidence and every imaginable explosive device.  We realized at the time that we were in the presence of a kind of genius. In our film he emerged not only as an impeccable expert, but a voice of wisdom that added a surprising, profound dimension to the film.

On the documentary film Starving the Beast (The Battle to Disrupt and Reform America’s Public Universities), producer Bill Banowsky and I got to hang out with and pick the brains of brilliant people well above our intellectual pay-grade: nationally recognized political strategists and academic experts who left us in a real sense of awe.  Among those were the University of Virginia’s brilliant media expert Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s poverty center director and activist Gene Nichol, and political strategist and wit James Carville. We would have never met them without the effort to make the film. Their contributions to the film are absolutely vital, but our opportunity to spend to time with them and get to know them was an equally profound personal reward. Continue reading

It’s Never Too Late

Anhelo Escalante
Southwest of Salem (2015) directed by Deborah Esquenazi
Southwest of Salem (2015) directed by Deborah Esquenazi

I am embarrassed to admit that, before the film Southwest of Salem was released, I had never heard of the San Antonio Four. It’s never too late to catch up, I thought after I saw it was playing at my local cinema. So I texted my friend Andy and immediately set up our next movie date. After all, as a queer Latinx of adult age, keeping myself informed about the experiences of other members of my own community simply seemed like the responsible thing to do. Moreover, to show support for the women in the story and the women behind the film, it’s exactly what sorority calls for. Continue reading

Texas Supreme Court
http://www.thc.texas.gov/

False Convictions in Texas: Are We Doing Enough?

By Robert W. Hoelscher
Deputy Director, Innocence Project of Texas (ITPX)

Do you believe people in Texas get convicted of crimes they did not commit? If you do, what do you think we should be doing about it? And whatever we’re doing about it, are we doing enough?

Let’s start with the first question. The answer is simple: Yes, people in Texas get convicted of crimes they did not commit. Why yes? Because to believe that false convictions never happen is to believe that the criminal justice system is perfect. Seems a bit of a stretch to believe that anything could be perfect, no?

But for many years, believe in perfection we did. The distinguished federal judge Learned Hand called the prospect of false convictions an “unreal dream.” And although books, films and other media would tell tragic stories about false convictions, those stories were make believe. In the real world, we went right along with Judge Hand. We may have easily accepted the notion that human beings make mistakes. But not THOSE mistakes. Continue reading