A Lesson on Structural Racism and Redemption at Northeast High School

September 16, 2020

Fred Wiseman’s cinema verité documentary High School is a 75-minute time capsule of a different world. It was filmed at Northeast High School during March and April of 1968.

Teachers, clad in suits or dresses, deliver content as students, dressed only a bit less formally, sit passively listening. An older English teacher, for example, recites the dozen verses of the song “Casey at the Bat” to her audience of expressionless teenagers. In another classroom, her younger counterpart reads aloud the lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Dangling Conversation” to a similarly disengaged group of students. Even when she plays the song, on a giant contraption she has borrowed from the theater department, the zombie vibe persists.