Working with children affected by poverty, racism and war.


"Do you think you are stupid ?", a teacher asks Cla­rissa, a ten year old aboriginal child in the Vancou­ver schools who is two years behind her class­mates.  This question opens an in­quiry into the story of  Clari­ssa, and many like her who appear to be slow or unteach able, damaged by the forces of racism, poverty, and the destruction of families. 


This documentary follows the work of Lorna Wil­liams, a teacher from a First Nations reserve on the west coast of Canada, and her search for help for the aboriginal children who have lost a belief in themselves.  Lorna was hired by the Vancouver schools to help the 2,000 aboriginal children in the inner city schools who are dropping out, pushed out onto the streets, where drugs, abuse and vio­lence are waiting.


In Israel, Lorna discovered the extraordinary work of an Israeli child psychologist, Reuven Feuerstein, who began his work 50 years ago, helping children who had survived the Holocaust, and she returned to Ca­nada with an extraord­inary, powerful teaching system that helps Clarissa and her teachers to see that behind her mask of frustration and anger, she is a bright and capable student.


The heart of Feuerstein's approach is his belief that all cultures prepare children to be competent, adap­table adults. Lorna looks at the history of ab­original people in North America, and in her own community, and shows how the suppression and misunder­standing of aboriginal cultures and lan­guages over the last 100 years can lead to learning problems in children today. 


During the program we also meet three "children at risk", students from inner-city Washington DC, and their teacher Lettie Battle.  Lettie is a passionate activist who believes that Feuer­stein's approach allows teachers to work with street kids who have been rejected by most schools. Using teaching tools developed by Feuerstein and his colleagues, she helps the children to develop skills and knowl­edge that will allow them to break out of a cycle of frustration and violence. 

More than 30,000 teachers use this teaching method world wide, working with children from many cultures.  The same methods are  used with children who have trouble communicating and un­derstanding their parents and teachers, including children with Down syndrome.


The Mind of a Child documents this break­through by Lorna and Lettie  who are adapting Feuerstein's work for use with inner city children.  The back­ground for this film is tragic, but the story it tells is optimistic, as it reveals new ways to treat and heal children.