Last week saw the Boston premiere of the new documentary film Backpack Full of Cash. The event was sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), Citizens for Public Schools, and the Schott Foundation. The film's narrator, Matt Damon, joined a discussion panel afterward to elaborate on the issues raised in the documentary.
He was joined onstage with Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang, author and activist (and Damon's mother) Nancy Carlsson-Paige, and youth organizer Luis Navarro, with CCFC Executive Director Josh Golin moderating.
Expect a more comprehensive write-up soon! Check out coverage from Boston media:
Matt Damon was in Boston Wednesday to highlight another project, an issue he said has been “at the forefront of our family and dinner table conversations my entire life.”
Damon, a Cambridge native, narrated Sarah Mondale’s film “Backpack Full of Cash,” a 2016 documentary about the movement to privatize public education. On Wednesday night, Damon joined Mondale, “Backpack” coproducer Vera Aronow, and his mother, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an activist for early childhood education, for a screening and discussion of the film.
In an interview before the event, Damon said that schools should not be run like businesses.
“Teachers have been increasingly beat up and devalued for the last two decades, and ultimately we’re all going to pay for that as a society,” said Damon, who graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
The 90-minute documentary, produced by Stone Lantern Films and Turnstone Productions, argues that the country needs a public school system that works for all students. Mondale, the film’s director and coproducer, was a New York public school teacher.
The event was designed to raise awareness about issues discussed in the film, including funding cuts for music and art classes.
“People who have found success in other walks of life feel that they’re somehow qualified to design education policy when they haven’t spent a day in the classroom and they have absolutely no teaching experience,” Damon said.
“It’s unthinkable that this would happen in any other discipline, that we’d hand over surgery to a billionaire because he was really successful in business,” he continued. “We’d let that guy do heart surgery or design medical policy. It’s just nuts.”
And as the product of a Massachusetts Public School — Cambridge Rindge and Latin — Damon sees the very essence of what made him successful being stripped from the education system.
“Things that really helped me thrive as a student: The freedom that my teachers had to teach me, to understand me … the leeway they had and the programs that were in place,” he said. “I was the beneficiary of this incredible theater program. Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck — we came out of the same program. That’s a public school at work.
“How many artists have we lost? How many artists have just given up because they feel this is not for them?”