Reader T&J alerted me to a documentary about the dilapidated middle school Ty’Sheoma Bethea attends in Dillon, S.C., J.V. Martin. It’s one of several schools in the area that are part of a lawsuit attempting to force the state to reckon with the crippling result of vast disparities in school funding. The entire area is known as the “corridor of shame,” and that’s the name of the documentary.
About 3:30 into this trailer, below, you see Ty’Sheoma’s crumbling school, where children wear coats and mittens in the classroom. Earlier, you get Sen. Lindsey Graham babbling about the property-value disparities that lead to unequal schools, as if they’re an act of God. The violins are a bit much for me, but Pat Conroy’s introduction alone makes this clip worth watching.
(Update: Other readers informed me that Fed Chief Ben Bernanke also attended J.V. Martin Middle School, many years ago. Here’s what he said when he was honored by the city of Dillon in 2006: ”Now I am an economic policy maker, and I sit in a nice office in Washington looking at reports and tables of data and following the fluctuations of the financial markets. However, I try not to forget what underlies all those data: millions of Americans working hard, trying to better themselves economically, struggling to manage their family finances, and worrying about the price of gas and college tuition.” I wonder if he’s thinking about Ty’Sheoma today.)
I also want to point readers who care about this issue to the work of the Chicago Tribune’s Howard Witt, who’s written about Dillon County schools. Every time I get indifferent to the crisis in American newspapers — they brought many of their problems on themselves, they’ve let themselves become inessential — I find stories like Witt’s, and I wonder who will travel the country to do them if newspapers go away. We do our best here at Salon, but I have no illusions we can do it alone. Just thinking. Watch the trailer: