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PBS documentary inspired by Baltimore Sun school story premieres

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore city schools are featured in a documentary set to debut on PBS stations nationally Tuesday.

But Maryland Public Television (MPT) does not have the film, which is based on a Baltimore Sun account of Filipino teachers recruited to Baltimore city classrooms, scheduled to air until Sept. 25 -- and then it is only airing on MPT Select (digital channel 22.2), not the main over-the-air channel 22.

WETA, Washington's main PBS outlet, also won't be carrying the documentary until Sept 25, but it will be on its main channel, 26. However, WETA is showing it at 12 a.m., while MPT is airing it in prime time at 10:30.

"The Learning" is part of the P.O.V. independent film series. That's a critically acclaimed forum steeped in socially-conscious, cutting-edge documentaries that often have a hard time finding a prime place on the increasingly commercial and fund-raising-focused lineups of some PBS outlets. I have long complained about the way outstanding documentaries from P.O.V. regularly get buried amid the do-wop and celebrations of Celtic voices.

But there are online options available starting Friday at 3:30 p.m. when the PBS "NewsHour" will offer an online chat about the film. The panelists will include Sara Neufeld, the former Sun reporter who first told the story of the four Filipino teachers recruited to teach in Baltimore city schoosl, and Erica Green, who now covers city schools for the Sun.

Here's the "NewsHour" description of its Friday online chat along with a link to video promoting the event:

Online – Join us Friday, September 16 at 3:30 p.m. ET for an online panel discussion with Newshour Education Correspondent John Merrow; Ramona Diaz -the filmmaker; Grace Gonzalez -a teacher featured in the film; Erica Green – who reports on the Baltimore City Public Schools for the Baltimore Sun; Sarah Neufeld – the Baltimore Sun reporter whose work inspired the film; and Anthony Japzon - President, Filipino Educators of Maryland.

PBS Newshour Digital Correspondent Hari Sreenivasan will moderate. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/09/join-a-live-chat-about-the-new-documentary-the-learning.htm.

 Here's the "NewsHour" description of the film:

One hundred years ago, American teachers established the English-speaking public school system of the Philippines. Now, in a striking turnabout, American schools are recruiting Filipino teachers. The Learning is the story of four Filipino women who reluctantly leave their families and schools to teach in Baltimore. With their increased salaries, they hope to transform their families’ lives back in their impoverished country. But the women also bring idealistic visions of the teacher’s craft and of life in America, which soon collide with Baltimore’s tough realities.

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