The National Geographic Channel's latest documentary takes viewers to two Philadelphia-area high schools to highlight the struggles many American students face in trying to access the internet, the channel recently announced.
Titled Without a Net: The Digital Divide in America, the documentary explores internet and technology access issues through the stories of students at Lower Merion and Penn Wood High Schools, among other schools throughout the country. Without a Net director Rory Kennedy selected the two area schools to "show the stark contrast that can exist in opportunities even just miles apart."
Despite the schools' close distance, access to technology and learning materials differs significantly. Lower Merion, for example, boasts 3-D printers and a robotics team, while Penn Wood in Southeastern Delaware County often lacks basic learning tools like textbooks.
The film focuses primarily on Jameira Miller, a Penn Wood graduate currently enrolled at the Villanova University School of Business, and her parents, Jamella and Bryant, as they navigate the digital divide. The family also filed a suit against the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 2014 that focused on fair education funding.
"They say that a child's zip code should not determine his or her right to a quality education," Jamella and Bryant Miller wrote in a 2016 op-ed for the Inquirer. "But we know the simple act of crossing a school district border can drastically change a child's life."
In addition to Penn Wood and Lower Merion, Without a Net will also look at schools in Kentucky, New York City, and the Coachella Valley of California.