Class Wars

A reckoning with America's dismantling of public education

Project type: Nonfiction Episodic
Project status: Development
Writer/Director/Producer: Joseph Erikson
Co-Producer/Cinematographer: Jon Beanlands
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A timely docuseries examining the multitude of traumas straining the public education system, featuring compelling interviews with the teachers and students targeted in the manufactured culture wars over American classrooms in the decades long battle to privatize public education.


Class Wars is a darkly provocative documentary series exploring the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the American public education system and psyche. Through hypnotic visuals and synth-driven score, the film exposes how the school privatization movement exploited distance learning, stoked anti-intellectual “culture wars”, and pandemic-era policies to further erode trust in public schools and criminalize critical thinking.

Divided into five compelling parts, the project features interviews with education experts, journalists, teachers and students who experienced the pandemic’s upheaval during their high school years. Intertwining these interviews with precinct archival footage to add emotional and historical context, “Class Wars” critically examines the challenges faced by the education system and the humanity of those navigating this unprecedented crisis.

The film questions the motivations behind the decades-long sabotage of public education, spotlighting key figures like Betsy DeVos, the funding and influence of organized hate groups like “Moms for Liberty”, the role of unregulated technology, and how these forces contribute to the exploitation and devaluing of intellectual labor across America.

Class Wars is a generational rallying call for society to confront deep-rooted inequalities and prioritize the fundamental humanity of all individuals at this pivotal point in human history. A dramatic final act brings us to Germany to understand how such widespread social change is in fact possible, and how we can synthesize this knowledge into a blueprint toward a more just and democratic society.

With a planned release in the fall of 2024, Class Wars is primed to provoke critical civic conversation about the value of public education to a strong democracy.

Meet the Filmmakers

Joseph Erikson – Writer/Director/Producer
Joseph Erikson is a pre-gentrification New Yorker; trauma survivor; and first-generation college graduate of SUNY Purchase where he made his first documentary short A Fist Full of Sparks about the culture of solidarity and sustainability in the New England hardcore scene during the 9/11 era.

Erikson earned his Master of Letters in film and television studies at the University of Glasgow. While in the UK he worked at the BBC and started the Bottle Rocket Dancing Club at the legendary Glasgow punk venue Nice ‘N Sleazy.

In 2013 he earned a Master’s of Art in Teaching from Lewis & Clark College, becoming a high school teacher, LGBTQIA ally, and advocate for homeless youth. He and his students have contributed research to abolitionist curriculum and pedagogy frameworks and legislation related subjects including World War II, U.S. Reconstruction, and Ethnic Studies.

The pandemic prompted Erikson to synthesize his experience as a teacher back into filmmaking. He has lived and taught in every state along the west coast and currently resides in Portland, Oregon with his spouse (a child welfare worker) and daughter.

Jon Beanlands – Co-Producer/Cinematographer
Jon Beanlands is a cinematographer working in features, documentaries, commercials and music videos. His credits include the documentary A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Prison, an inmates’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Two Rivers Correctional Institution, directed by Bushra Azzouz, The Lives of Hamilton Fish, which premiered at the Pineapple Underground Film Festival in Hong Kong and won Best Picture at the New England Underground Film Festival. He shot the film No Retreat which was a staff pick and award finalist at the Austin Film Festival. The short film Fish has won over a dozen awards and the film Roughstock was selected for the Columbia University Film Festival Compilation.

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