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"America to Me" is a 10-part documentary series on Sunday nights this fall on STARZ that looks at race, identity, inequity and education in the United States through the eyes of students at a diverse public school in Chicago.

The well-reviewed series was filmed during the 2015-2016 academic year at the 3,200-student Oak Park and River Forest High School in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Oak Park. The school is a successful one; it has a graduation rate of about 95 percent, and it has a diverse student population: 54 percent white, 23 percent black, 11 percent Hispanic, 9 percent multiracial and 3 percent Asian.

The series, which follows 12 students as they move through the year, was directed by Steve James, the creator of 1994’s “Hoop Dreams.”

James told the Chicago Tribune that he chose the school because his three children had attended it, and he had lived in the community for several decades. The Tribune quoted him as saying:

“For years, I thought it would be great to look at issues of race and education in a community such as ours, which has struggled for decades with racial inequities in the classroom. We hope to hold a mirror up to the school and community so that we all have a greater understanding of the personal and educational experiences of our mostly black and biracial students. The series shows some of the ways the school is failing to address inequities, while at the same time showing some incredibly impressive teachers and students.”

You can find a lot of information about the well-received series, including a guide to lead discussions on race, privilege and education here, at americatomerealtalk.com, and below is a piece about the questions the series raises and what it is telling us about the nation at this point in time.

The post below was written by Sam Chaltain, an educator, writer and filmmaker who wrote six books, including “American Schools: The Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community.” It's a primer on how and why we need to re-create schools to not only teach kids how to compete in today’s economy but also to help them develop the understanding and skills to participate in democratic life.

By Sam Chaltain

Whatever side of the culture war you’re on — and, unless you’re really not paying attention, you’re on one — this much seems clear: America is having an identity crisis.

We the people occupy different worlds. We read different newspapers, watch different TV shows and hold up different heroes. We see one another as objects to be avoided or crushed, not reasoned with or understood. We feel increasingly certain of the other side’s madness. We have begun to lose hope, check out and give up.

So it may surprise you to learn that a new 10-part documentary series about an Illinois high school is the must-see TV of the moment. And yet three questions at the center of "America to Me" — which get posed at the start of the school year to a group of students still shaking off the languorous hold of the summer — strike at the root of our ongoing identity crisis:

Who are you? Who does the world think you are? And what’s the difference?

For the students of Oak Park River Forest, a diverse public high school of 3,200 students located at the edge of Chicago’s West Side, these are the questions that contain multitudes. And for Oak Park’s students of color, in particular, they are the questions that reveal the extent to which even a community like theirs, which was shaped by progressive housing and social policies, remains burdened by America’s original sin.

“Much of our contemporary thinking about identity is shaped by pictures that are in various ways unhelpful or just plain wrong,” New York University Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah explains in his new book about identity, "The Lies That Bind." And when it comes to issues of race, “not only did European racial thinking develop, at least in part, to rationalize the Atlantic slave trade, it played a central role in the development and execution of Europe’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century colonial projects.”

This is the toxic legacy under which we labor today. It’s what makes people see Colin Kaepernick as either a hero or a villain; it’s what sparks the messianic fervor at each new Donald Trump rally; and it’s what leads one of the many student stars of "America to Me," a charismatic senior named Charles, to observe ruefully that “this school was made for white kids because this country was made for white kids.”

Yet the series outlines more than one set of truths. Its title comes from a Langston Hughes poem, "Let America Be America Again," in which Hughes writes that “America never was America to me.”

Throughout the same poem, however, Hughes yearns for the other side of the American story, the one where “my land [can] be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe.”

And in the same episode in which we hear Charles bemoan the racialized design of his school, we also hear a teacher tell a group of incoming freshmen that “when you come to this house, represent who you are.”

Which is it?

Is Oak Park the rare example of a multiracial community in which all people can represent who they are in equal measure? Or is it just another example of how our country's intractable, deeply ingrained ways of thinking about race (and one another) have yielded two opposite realities for white and black families, and a schizophrenic message of which parts of oneself are truly welcome, and which parts are too dangerous, misunderstood and feared?

The beauty of "America to Me" is that its answer is always "both/and." The complexity of the problems we face are allowed to hang there for us to wrestle with, unresolved.

In its window into a modern American high school, for example, we see cringeworthy examples of unaware teachers, uninterested students and uneasy reminders of just how unchanged our schools are by the tectonic shifts of the wider world.

But we also see what makes schools like Oak Park so magical — the sheer variety of what you can explore and experience, the quality and commitment of the master teachers among us, and the ways in which each day can leave a student feeling seen or ignored, heard or silenced.

As one teacher puts it, “I don’t think people understand how life and death this job can be.” And as another points out, as if to clarify the source of the stakes, “In this community, when we mention race, all hell breaks loose."

Of course, Oak Park is not alone. The shadow of America's racial legacy is at the root of how we see ourselves and one another — all of us, no matter our color, our politics or our age.

And in their willingness to courageously confront the third rail of American civic life as the cameras roll, the students, families and teachers of Oak Park have provided the rest of us with a precious and timely gift — an extended window into how far we remain from having the confidence and clarity to honestly confront, and then answer, the only questions that matter:

Who are you? Who does the world think you are? And what’s the difference?