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Viewers Respond to “American Promise” – Watch Free Online Until March 6, 2014!

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Read what POV viewers have to say about American Promise, which is available to watch online until March 6, 2014.

“Watched #AmericanPromise on #POV #PBS three times so far! It’s #amazing ! I laughed. I cried. I saw my parents. I saw myself.”
@professorminter (Twitter)

“As an African American who graduated from Dalton over 40 years ago and who stayed involved with the school on the alumni level, largely to connect with the students of color there, I found this documentary qutie telling. Forty years later, African American students are still facing many of the same issues that I faced at Dalton.”

“I am a 28 yr old black guy who attended Dalton from 1989-1997…I wanted to be liked, accepted, to be admired– popular. All of which eluded me at Dalton.”
Dalton Boy

“To hear Idris say in one part of the documentary that it would be better if I were white broke my heart.”

“I literally sat and cried at the graduation scene when Seun was asked to leave Dalton. I know the complex feelings he and his family must have faced.”
Dominique Atchison

“Every parent should be required to see this thought provoking film.”

“Take away race, income, and parental style and you still have an interesting real world account of two youth attempting to find their own motivation and interests on the journey to becoming an adult.”
Heston Clark

“I related to the desire of wanting the best education for my children but at what cost to the child.”

“The most crucial aspect I saw in this film is the the cohesiveness of the family unit and the leadership and love of the fathers to guide their sons, despite all the obstacles that came their way.”

“This film took my breath away! While watching with my husband, we felt like we were seeing life in our own home.”
Celestine Jeffreys

“#AmericanPromise: the most touching documentary I’ve ever seen. I felt as if I grew up with the subjects. Loved it.”
@FredericScholar (Twitter)

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POV Staff
POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.
  • toni

    what a journey; it was agonizing and uplifting watching families persevere in their goal to provide the best possible launchpad for their boys in the face of daunting life circumstances (cancer, death of family member, etc)…we had such intimate access to their day to day lives over years…I kept thinking that these are intact families, educated professional parents and they are struggling mightily: how much more difficult it is for families with more challenges (single parents, financial instability, parents with less sophistication as to how to negotiate the system). Amazing film!!!!

    • Valerie

      While I did not agree with the parenting style of the film makers they and the other parents did not waiver from wanting the best for both sons. More than anything else I felt that the lesson was not so much about going to Dalton but more about the struggles of what it takes for our black boys to be successful. I don’t think Dalton did a better job than the public school — both boys had a solid home foundation and I think that more than anything was the key. This was a good film. I hope parents and educators can work together to make positive changes for the future.

  • S. Theo Burke

    Watching “American Promise” left me angry at Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, for their relentless “helicopter parenting” and never-ending lack of satisfaction with Idris.

    How many American parents would be PROUD that their son was accepted into three major universities, including Occidental College? Answer: most of them. Occidental was good enough for our African-American President of the United States, but
    not Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson. Instead of celebrating Idris’ great moments of triumph — Dalton graduation, good grades, acceptance into Occidental – they excoriate him, telling him he was “in bed” for not getting into Stanford and the like.

    You can see Idris’ love of basketball strangled by his father’s constant ridicule after games, no matter how well he played. Small
    wonder, then, that Idris did not double-down on practicing basketball, as the joy of the game was slowly squeezed out of him.

    In the “history quiz” scene, you can see that Idris’ was, by then, old enough to manage his homework obligations, but his mom has a freakout simply because she “did not know” that Idris had a history quiz that day. She wants to hear his plan to finish the paper required before the quiz, which he had a handle on, all by himself. She’s clearly micromanaging every aspect of his life. Who’s attending Dalton here, Idris or his parents?

    In one scene where Idris is laying in bed despondent, his dad decides to give Idris a pompous speech at bedside, pontificating on all the wonderful conclusions Mom and Dad have arrived at about him, and what it means to their own parenting. Joe sanctimoniously “blames” himself, a kind of “your ‘screw ups’ are actually my fault” kind of speech.

    That scene and the others exemplify the true nature of their project with Idris, a vicarious adventure wherein they smother Idris’ life for their own self-reflected glory. Idris is doing a great job, staying at Dalton, applying and getting into colleges, solving his attention
    deficit problem, but nothing is ever good enough for his parents, because it doesn’t match their very narrow view of being a good son and a success.

    The irony is that Joe and Michèle cannot point to a similar example from their own lives, as far as we know, where parental pushing may have led to their own success. Michèle reveals that her own parents were practically absent when she was a teenager, and so
    she created this tough construct of demanding so much for herself, which led to her own success.

    Joe and Michèle’s mistake is in assuming that this “tough construct” that may have worked for them is automatically the way to raise a child. Child rearing should be a balance of praise and demands – ask any family communication researcher. Joe and Michèle failed in this, and made Idris’ life a stressful, joyless, endless drive for achievement that was never good enough.

    No doubt, this narrative will continue for Idris all through his undergraduate career, as his parents will continue to demand a very narrow view of “good enough.” If Idris’ inevitable emerging sense of independence and adulthood at Occidental (3000 miles away) begins to challenge Joe’s and Michèle’s ideas, he is in for terrible clashes with them in the future. I can see threats of
    removing financial support by his parents if Idris ever really tells them this is his own life and they should butt out.

    Idris, this IS your own life. It has always been. Find your own voice,
    and answer only to that voice.

    • Edwin

      I do’nt think this film showed everything and therefore I don’t think Idris’ parents should be judge so harshly.There could have been many a tender moment that was not captured by the cameras. Idris is blessed with 2 involved parents that obviously care about his well being.

  • Edwin

    Really enjoyed watching this film although I feel Idriss and Seun’s desires in regards to their own education was overshadowed by the parents or simply not explored. I commend the parents for taking steps to provide the best opportunities for these boys. Like any parent you want your kids to succeed but it seems our aspirations for our kids education seem to outshine the child’s. We need to figure out how to inspire kids take ownership of their own education.

  • Katherine

    I think every parent, indeed every American, can benefit from this documentary. One comment: In response to the educator who said that “White” parents don’t seek an integrated school environment for their children, that’s a false overgeneralization. My husband and I, and many “White” parents like us, do actively seek integrated schools. In San Francisco, we choose schools to put in for in a public school lottery, and our family has purposely chosen the most integrated schools we could. Consequently, our daughter has developed a world view that reflects our values. This has not come without a price: she has been, at times, scoffed at and belittled for being European-American. However, she’s learning lessons about what it means to be an active citizen in a pluralistic society.

  • HB

    I watched this and was very moved. I wish the best for both boys. Plus the parents were involved in every aspect of there lives and that makes a difference. I went to a integrated public school and I think that helped me more in my life than I can say. I think more people need see this film!!