The Houston teens portrayed in this documentary come from a different world than the Zed Omegas. Dropout Nation focuses on at-risk teens, and shows in depth the challenges that outside forces can bring to a school in the form of a troubled teen. The Zed Omegas aren’t victims of outside forces – they bring questions about school itself, why it is the way it is, why it is so hard for some students, if it is truly focused on a student’s future needs, and so on. They are “at risk” for entirely different reasons.
The Zed Omegas are a great complement to Dropout Nation: they are The Other Dropout Nation. They ask the question that would come up next for the Houston teens, namely: now that I am getting a diploma, am I getting an education? If what I am learning is truly giving me a future, why can it be so boring and difficult to engage with? You might say the Zed Omegas are “Checkout Nation”…
The Zed Omegas ask hard questions of school itself. Clare and Xavier, for example, wonder why so much pressure is put on Marco to finish school when he already has a job at a deli. They are examining alternatives such as unschooling or work-study schools. Clare and Xavier are looking for jobs, and they’re hard to get. They ask if it might be better for Marco if his learning was built around something that he has already succeeded at (his job), and which is clearly important to him in his personal and family life. The school can quote statistics about Marco’s chances of graduating if he delays getting his diploma, but Marco is not a mere statistic.
Where the Zed Omegas and the Houston teens connect: they all are trying to gain a measure of control over their own futures. They want to succeed at being happy. They want to learn how to do that, and they feel they should start now.