This film is part of Free

The Fight for Better Schools

‘We’ve got a week to get a bill written!’ Shocked at the poor standard of their children’s schools, a local PTA group campaigns to change educational policy in the state of Virginia.

Documentary 1949 21 mins


This film tells the inspiring story of how grassroots activism and parent power transformed the schools of Arlington, Virginia from a badly run collection of overcrowded classrooms into a modern educational system with happy children and motivated teachers. The sense of postwar optimism is evident everywhere, from the new designs for school buildings, and the advertising campaign posters to the use of audiovisual media in the new teaching materials centre.

The rise in the school population caused by the postwar baby boom meant that, by 1949, the US educational system - already ill-equipped and understaffed - was heading for a crisis. This look at how local and national campaign groups were tackling the problem is perhaps lacking something of the ebullience of the March of Time at its peak, but there are nonetheless some welcome touches of humour to help to lighten the mood. From the sour-faced naysayer who dismisses the campaigners as a bunch of ‘radicals’, to the old lady who thinks that the campaigning mothers want their children to spend more time at school so they can ‘gad about at cocktail parties’, the film neatly skewers the views of the bigoted minority.