No Child

08:19 min
Youth Documentary
Director: Gabe Cheifetz
Producer: Chris “Shakademic” Johnson and Glenn Scott

Winner of the Knowledge is Power Award


More About No Child from Director Gabe Cheifetz

No Child was a difficult piece to make.  We had been commissioned by Current TV to make a short documentary that looked at President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, and we had to do several different versions before we finally got it right. At first we tried to do something funny with it, but that didn’t work very well. We had a variety of interviews with policy makers and educators, and they were good interviews, but somehow the topic really didn’t lend itself to funny interviews. So we ended up throwing all of that away, basically our entire production and concept, and we went in a different direction: military recruitment in high schools, and its relationship to No Child Left Behind.

We shot exactly one interview with counter-recruitment activists, one with an Army recruiter, and one with an Army Reserves recruiter on a hidden camera that Chris had set up in his apartment. So the recruitment interviews you see in No Child are the only ones we shot. We tried really hard to edit this material in a way that accurately represented what happened. I think that for the most part we succeeded.

Some people have interpreted No Child as a simple slam on military recruiters. It’s not. We wanted to talk to recruiters, counter-recruitment activists, and show what they had to say about No Child Left Behind. The counter-recruitment activists made a big deal about how dishonest the recruiters were, and so we decided to tape a recruiter with a hidden camera and see what happened. What we found was that the recruiter on the hidden camera used some hard-sell tactics. Was it dishonest? It was hard to say. But what she said didn’t seem to match what the other recruiter had said. And so we showed that.

After No Child aired on Current TV, the regular Army recruiter we had interviewed got in touch with us. He was extremely offended by the piece, and felt that it was highly dishonest and that it was an attack on his profession. This was disturbing for me to hear, because I thought that he had argued his case persuasively, and generally came across well in the interview. He told me that people harass him, call him a baby-killer, and that recruiters are under immense pressure to hit recruitment goals.

This is the big flaw in No Child. Talking to the recruiter, I realized that there is another side to the story, which is the pressure you’re under as a recruiter to make the numbers. This is a key piece, and No Child should have showed it. It would have made it harder for audiences to watch No Child but would have been more of a complete story.


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