Film Student Captures Exciting Learning Environment of San Francisco Film School

You learn by doing. That old axiom still holds true today. Film student Sam Baer recently took that advice to heart by opting to make a day-in-the-life movie to illustrate what it’s like to attend one of the nation’s premier visual arts schools.

Sam is enrolled at the Academy of Art University located in the heart of one of America’s most vibrant and cultured cities, San Francisco. His approach to making his documentary was to leave nothing out. That meant recording the moment he rolled out of bed to crashing back to his mattress at the end of the day.

Sam’s film presents a stimulating portrayal of his rigorous but fulfilling class schedule. It documents the rich and textured environment of the school grounds, facilities, fellow students and the ancillary amenities that is the unique cultural milieu of San Francisco’s diverse culture. Employing the artist’s dictum of “show don’t tell,” Baer draws his viewers in and portrays attending the Academy of Art University as an enriching experience that demonstrates what it’s like to be learning at one’s “dream college.”

The venerable institution was established in 1929, and it is the only privately-owned art institution in the United States. It’s founder, Dr. Richard Stephens, was an accomplished painter and served as the creative director for Sunset magazine. The Academy of Arts University is still operated by the Stephens family today. It enrolls more than 5,000 students.

What has made the Academy of Arts University among the most successful institutions of higher education in the nation is its policy of hiring instructors who are not just “book smart,” but professionals who have achieved recognition in their respective fields. That means if a student, like Sam Baer, is studying experimental filmmaking, his teachers will have made significant contributions to that art.

The Academy of Arts University offers courses in 28 areas of study.

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Betsy DeVos and Nonexistent Fear

Have you seen the news concerning the new education reform bills? US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been working since her appointment in 2017 to bring more educational choice options to different states. However, since states control education legislature, DeVos has not been able to get legislation approved in every state. In an interview in 2018, she spoke about the issues with education reform in US and how she plans to handle it throughout the last leg of her term.


Betsy DeVos has always been interested in education reform. She got her degree in business economics at Calvin College in 1979, and at the same time, she worked on President Gerald Ford’s campaign. She was close to the Republican Party, and she fought hard for students’ rights in her own state of Michigan. However, even as the Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, it was difficult to get legislation passed for education reform. Her “Kids First! Coalition” bill was blocked in 2001.


Now that she is the leader of education reform as the US Education Secretary, she is continuing her campaign for education reform and educational choice. She recently toured schools in Florida and other states with the First Lady Melania Trump. Her message was simple. She wants to put students first and give them the best shot at education in America.


Despite the reports of testing scores going up in the United States, other statistical information shows the opposite. Test scores do not seem to reflect the state of education as a whole in the United States, which has been falling rapidly in the past few years. Currently, the United States ranks in the 65th percentile for education around the world. Many third world countries actually rank far higher.


So what is the issue?


Betsy DeVos points out that many administrations have had their own hand in creating these issues, but it started with the reliance on standardized testing and resources for schools. Without the proper grades, schools are forced to accept lower and lower resources based on their standardized testing scores. If students do not perform well that year, then it is guaranteed that the school will receive less funding. This cyclical problem has created many schools where students are not able to get ahead.


This has been the main reason for educational choice advocacy, which is what Betsy DeVos has wanted since taking office. She points out in an interview that Florida and Louisiana are the best states for educational choice. Students are able to pick where they want to go to school, and they don’t necessarily have to pay tuition in certain states. For example, Florida has a tuition-based scholarship program where students can get a percentage of their tuition paid.


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