Teaching and Learning in Compton began as a documentary project on Compton’s Dominguez High School girls’ soccer team. No one seemed to know exactly but it was generally agreed upon that they had not won a game in ten years.
Compton is not your typical soccer town. The surrounding, more gentile and better cared for suburbs of Los Angeles had much more support. Not just in attitude, but in money. The uniforms were the first distinction. The Compton girls began the season playing in t-shirts. The other teams had the nice professional-looking nylon Nike jerseys.
Despite the stage-setting for a Cinderella-story season, the Dominguez High girls’ soccer team failed utterly, failing to win one regular season game.
And the documentary would have ended there — the failure of a public school system, the reinforcement of the girls’ perceptions that they were destined to lose — if it had not been for the events of that school year.
The racial riots began about two weeks into the filming of the soccer documentary. Blacks vs. Latinos. The nonchalance of most of the faculty and the school administration begged the question: why is this happening on such a regular basis? And these weren’t small skirmishes; children were being beat severely by their peers.
And so it began – the investigation into what it was like to attend school and to teach at an inner-city public school where violence is not only the norm but to some degree expected. What was it like to deal with an administration that preferred to sweep incidents under the proverbial rug instead of honestly addressing the school’s most troubling issues?