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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Fall 2013

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

When you consider where to get a great education, you look for a school that prides itself as an incubator of new ideas, as a forum for intellectual discourse, as a context for trial and error through experimentation, and as a place to grow intellectually, spiritually, personally and professionally, and to explore new ways of thinking and doing. Education is a vital resource for all ages.

In this issue we look at education from different perspectives. One of the main prompts for this exploration has been some exciting activity brewing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home town to two Valhallas of higher learning: Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. The MIT Open Documentary Lab has been making the rounds on the festival circuit throughout 2013 and has been partnering with such forward-leaners as IDFA DocLab, Tribeca Film Instiutute and the National Film Board of Canada. Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Laboratory has produced such groundbreaking films as Sweetgrass, People's Park and Leviathan, while the Harvard Law Documentary Studio has embraced nonfiction storytelling as a means to enhance jurisprudential training. Laura Almo investigates these innovative models of education.

Mitchell Block, a longtime educator at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, knows a thing or two about solid, well-rounded training. Here, he assesses both the assets and liabilities of today's documentary training programs and offers a primer of what to think about when considering film school.

Whether you're just coming out of film school, or switching careers from something relatively uncinematic, there will be dues to pay—not to mention  student loans. Michelle Paster speaks with veterans and tyros alike about the benefits of an apprenticeship and how to make the most out of it.

Finally, two major back-to-school releases take a hard look at issues of tolerance, identity  and race that so many young students face in that tough crucible known as adolescence. Tracie Lewis talks to Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster about their epic tome, American Promise, which follows their son Idris and his friend Seun from kindergarten through high school graduation. Katie Bieze takes us to Oxnard, California, site of a middle school shooting, and subject of Marta Cunningham's Valentine Road. Cunningham shares her insights about the devastating impact this tragedy had on students, teachers and the Oxnard community.

To close out, we welcome a new member of the IDA family: Ken Jacobson, the incoming Director of Educational Programs and Strategic Partnerships. Watch for an interview with Ken on in September.

Yours in actuality,

Thomas White