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The concept of adults returning undercover to high school isn’t new in pop culture — see “21 Jump Street” (the TV and movie version) or Drew Barrymore’s movie “Never Been Kissed.”
But A&E’s new series, “Undercover High,” turns that fiction into reality.
The docuseries, which premiered Tuesday night, follows seven twenty-somethings from different backgrounds who spend a semester posing as students in a high school in Highland Park, a suburb of Topeka, Kan. Unlike their fictional counterparts, the “students” here aren’t police officers looking to bust a drug ring or journalists looking for a scoop. Their purpose is “trying to drive conversation but also create something that was entertaining,” says Greg Henry, co-founder of Lucky 8, the production company which collaborated with A&E on “Undercover High.”
“It was important that we had buy-in from the community,” says Henry, explaining how producers justified the TV cameras to unsuspecting residents and students. (The school’s principal and officials knew the real intent — teachers knew there were seven adults, but not their identities.) “Even before the cameras came in, we were [at the school] having parent meetings, talking to the teachers about the broad nature of the project … that for one semester, in a very unprecedented way, we were going to document what it was to be a teen in America today … So no one specifically knew that undercover adults were coming in — but along the way people always had their suspicions.”
As part of the social experiment, the seven “students” chosen to be embedded were also trying to use the semester as a learning experience related to their previous high school years.
One of the undercover adults is a youth minister and girls basketball coach who grew up in the Nashville projects. On the show, he professes his desire to help students with any issues they’re struggling with. Another undercover adult cops to being a self-professed “ass” her first time in high school. She’s now working on her master’s degree and hoping to become a school superintendent.
The participants were selected through a “non-traditional outreach” process, he says. “We wanted to find folks that would have a perspective and a backstory that would make sense. We would go to educational groups, recent graduate groups, youth ministries.”
And he says it was equally crucial to find the right setting for the series, “to find a school that, for the viewer, would be representational of many high schools in America.”
“We wanted a school that wasn’t too big but wasn’t too small. Highland Park is a school that is 30/30/30 racially divided — African-American, White and Hispanic. And it’s in Topeka, which is where Brown v. Board of Education was,” Henry says, referring to the 1954 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. “It was a place that already had a strong position in the history of American education.”
Henry says he hopes parents and teens watch the show together.
“It was pretty remarkable how much they let us into their world,” he says about the high school and its students. “But it was because they also saw the value of telling their story and generating this conversation about what it is to be a teen in America today.”
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Source : https://nypost.com/2018/01/09/why-7-adults-impersonated-students-at-a-kansas-high-school/