SXSW Review: World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements

Score:A

Director:Chris Farina

Cast:John Hunter

Running Time:57 Minutes

Rated:NR

Sadly, in today's society, fewer educators than necessary really touch the lives of children. Perhaps the most underpaid and underappreciated profession in the United States is undoubtedly one of the most important. I had a teacher named Mr. Bridges in the fifth grade, and I remember so many specific lessons and examples from his class now, almost fourteen years later that I only wish every student could have a teacher and an experience like Mr. B, even just once in their education. In World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements, we have both the privilege and pleasure of watching Mr. Hunter, who studied an experimental education program in college, reach out and shape the hearts and minds of his forth grade students. He brilliantly teaches them to work together, think critically and creatively, evaluate consequences, and take on challenges much larger than any"”including themselves"”would think possible.

As these forth graders enter a world peace game that Mr. Hunter also uses with his high school students, they learn much more than any text book or standardized exam could cover. Knowing the personalities, minds, and talents of each of his students well, he places these kids in roles where they will be not only be learning and exploring but teaching, working together, and maximizing their own strengths and the strengths of others to solve reality-based hypothetical problems. In doing so, they gain much more than forth grade knowledge. During this complex eight-week game, these students gain social skills, communications skills, leadership skills, practical knowledge, world philosophies, and perhaps the most important of all: the belief that because Mr. Hunter says so, they can accomplish anything"”including mythical world peace. The game is not won until they solve all of their given challenges and achieved peace.

Raw forth grade attitudes are at play here, and it is highly entertaining and thought-provoking to watch the drama and excitement that ensues when countries collide and accusations are thrown around, all with limited vocabulary. "Mr. Hunter, he's a brain-stretcher." This is a laugh-out-loud learning experience, and those, unfortunately, don't come along often enough. We should all be so fortunate to broaden our horizons so early in life, but for the many who were not given this opportunity, this documentary will help as much as anything. Smile and laugh as you begin to think broader than you had before, about the world, about children, and about possibilities.

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