Night School (Movie by Kevin Hart) can help us create Real School

Tiny - Posted on 08 October 2018

The new Kevin Hart movie - Night School - was about so many things, but like a good artist, as my poverty skola/teacher mama Dee used to say, Kevin Hart didn’t pound on the table. Through subtle and sketch comedy, pranks, relationship issues, innuendo and character development - he showed an oft-unseen part of Mans Skoo ( as I call it) which is an ableist, racist, classist institution known as Special Education - that so many of us who live with Mans skoo labels like “learning disabled” know way too much about.

A scarcity model cocktail of wrong that is US K-12 Special education, has traditionally been an under-or un-funded, un-cared about part of institutional schooling since its inception, that makes children who don’t necessarily test well, live with a disability, are of color or in struggle with poverty or other issues, permanently labeled, tracked , stereotyped and forcibly medicated or dangerously poLice harassed.

“Am I dumb?” Kevin Hart’s character continues to inquire all throughout the fast-paced hilarious movie of everyone, from teachers to  advisors, to friends,and finally to Tiffany Haddish, as his night school teacher and one of the realest actors around who he meets when he has to go to night school to get his GED, clearly and simply told him, “No you are not dumb,” but the first one to ask him simply and without any inferred put-downs, “Have you ever been tested?” which the comedic movie turned into a joke about STD’s, illustrating yet another level of shame about living with disabilities in this ableist, racist, classist society. 

As a survivor of teacher-shaming for my dyslexia, being called stupid and put in the corner with two other students in front of 36 fellow students in the 5th grade because I couldn’t do math at grade level, this was a plot point in the movie, where it left the cutesy and became very serious. And very powerful, making me reflect not only on my own struggle to pass the GED, which, like Kevin’s character, I failed the math portion 4 times, barely believing I could pass the test at all, but the ways in which my life and so many of my fellow poverty skolaz and the youth we built our liberation school Deecolonize Academy for and by, are discouraged, bullied, criminalized and shamed throughout our years in institutional school.

A few months ago,  i had been invited to come in to a class for future Special education teachers with Emily Nusbaum and Leroy Moore at University of San Francisco, where I witnessed graduate  students who were about to become our youth’s future special ed teachers, be clueless about ableism, poverty and racism’s implications in their curriculum, even though Leroy and Emily had painstakingly taught them a whole semester of intersectional social justice curriculum based on Leroy’s powerful book Black Disabled Art History 101. This sad reality is why I created a children's book (El Trabajador/The HardWorker) with a disabled, houseless elder as the protagonist and me and Leroy created a curriculum on poverty and disability which we are teaching to all conscious teachers and parents and youth who are open to it.

This moment in Leroy and Emily’s class made clear something I and many conscious teachers and youth and disability activists have known for a while, Special education is an ancient racist, classist, ableist branch of “mans skool” curriculum/education which has nothing to do with social justice and although it contains some conscious folks trying to teach, as Tiffany Haddish plays, it is a harmful system, which is outdated and rooted in poverty and access to resources of poor/POC students with disabilities. Not to mention being at the far end of the punitive, Big Pharma involved institutional solutions of medication, incarceration and long-term segregation and labeling.And rarely if ever, is it taught by teachers with poverty or disability scholarship.

And in this movie, my still living with shame and 6th grade educated self discovered, i probably have a little known neuro-divergence, known as Dis-Calcula, which is a branch of dyslexia, which if you have it, makes it extremely hard to concentrate and even look at numbers on a page without them moving and changing.

This Afro-centric movie which I would refer all people to see, but especially my fellow poverty/disability skolaz, also had incisive critiques about racism, incarceration, fetishization of Black culture, ageism, sexism, bullying, and even poverty shaming and the power of living, owning and lifting up your truth, whatever it is. 

Thank you, Kevin Hart, for lifting up and helping us laugh and hopefully impact change on this issue that impacts, harms and discourages so many of us youth and adults in the struggle with poverty, racism, and disability in Amerikkka 


For more information on Tiny's and Leroy's books go to To invite Leroy and tiny into your class or organization go to 


Sign-up for POOR email!