This video is an amazing criticism of America's education system. First, every child in the video received an A grade, not because they deserved it, but because that's what was important in their society. It's something that holds very true, especially in Asian countries. When I studied abroad in Hong Kong, I learned from my classmates (especially those from mainland China) that as children, all they did was study. Extracurricular activities were not important, unless they pertained to academics. The most important thing was good grades.
Second, the teacher's mask represents how teachers don't really care about their students. There are certainly teachers who do actually care about their students, but the video calls attention to our strict focus on standardized test scores. We've all seen the news on Atlanta teachers correcting wrong answers on their students' tests because they were concerned about making sure their school or classperformed well.
Third, the students' zipped mouths and existence as just numbers symbolize the perceived unimportance of individuality of students. As long as these students all get A's, what do creativity and individuality matter, right? This idea particularly pertains to those classes that emphasize strict memorization, and even English or philosophy classes in high school that force students to simply regurgitate ideas and arguments that came from the teacher's own interpretations. Why aren't students' interpretations valued until college-level English classes?
From my personal experience, English was my hardest subject in high school because my teachers would always point out that my essays lacked some idea that was mentioned in class. That suddenly changed when I started college, when all my English professors loved my writing. I realized that in college, professors actually want students to explore and voice their own interpretations. There are no right or wrong answers. What was important was that students elaborated on and supported their arguments clearly and thoroughly.
Lastly, I thought the video resonated deeply with this image:
Perhaps we are all just zombies who go through the same schooling, go to college for the same reason, get a job because that's what we have to do, work hard until we retire, hope that we have enough saved to enjoy retired life, and then die, hopefully having lived a happy and "free" life. But are we really free? This video shows that we start to become zombies when we start school, because that's when we learn that we need to get good grades to have good jobs, which will lead to a good life. But when did we, as a civilization, decide that good grades and good jobs are prerequisites to living a happy and fulfilling life? How many of us actually have the freedom to live our lives exactly the way we want? We all know the answer to that question: "Well, we can't have everything we want in life. You have to make trade-offs. If you want to be free to do your own thing, then you have to work hard and make more money now so you can be free later." And when did civilization decide on that idea? When did it become necessary to sacrifice happiness and freedom in our youth just in order to have them later in our lives? (Personally, I think it was when we invented money.)
This concept is contrasted by the dog in the film, who embodies that freedom and happiness that we all strive for. The main character, after finally breaking his silence, decided that the dog was worth saving from the oncoming train because he knew that the dog lived the kind of life that he himself wanted to live; free to run about, without any worries about grades. In the end, the main character died (or at least was severely injured) because of his heroic move, but he laughed because he realized that the life he would've lived would be like being dead anyway, just another faceless student pumped out of the education system to meet the demands of a mammoth economy. At least in trying to save the dog, in actually breaking away from the norm and the routine, he learned what it was like to truly live.
What's your interpretation of the film?