"You gotta get that `We are the world' crap outta your head. 'Cause it ain't gonna happen on this campus." - Fudge (Ice Cube)
"Higher Learning" is Singleton's third film, after the great "Boyz N the Hood" (1991) and the more meandering, romantic "Poetic Justice" (1993). Singleton himself, at 26, is only a few years out of USC, and his film is at home on the campus.
“... on the fictitious campus of Columbus University, where almost every conceivable racial, cultural and gender group seems represented,” - Washington Post
Looking through the eyes of the incoming first-year students, we go through the process of moving in, meeting roommates, taking the first classes, and socializing.
“Into this sanctuary of self-enforced apartheid comes a new freshman class....They are here, allegedly, to learn, but most of their most important lessons will be taught by the campus itself.” - Rger Ebert
This four enter as freshmen, eager to learn. With a set of ideas already in their heads. Most of the learning happens outside the classroom. Lessons learned are not academic but more moral, an attempt to understand the world they are about to enter.
“unapologetically confrontational film that uses a fictional campus, Columbus University, to represent the racial and sexual powder keg of America.” - Link
They attend "Columbus University," a name filled with meaning. And the university's name is a proper introduction to what you should expect. After all, this American university is a place of learning, therefor the lessons learned should apply to American life.
“Higher Learning is often clichéd, unfocused and didactic. But Singleton has a goal most of his contemporaries have given up on: He wants to make a movie that makes a difference.” - Rollingstone Magazine
These groups, with all their agendas, are headed for a collision. Singleton does an excellent job of cutting back and forth between many stories; this is not a "black movie" but sees the whole campus population as its subject.
“There are enough little lectures to warrant course credit before the film is over.” - New York Times
This movie is interesting because it places you in the 1990s where it is, years removed from jim crow but at the begging of the information age. To make this setting more interesting, you are at a place where people typically begin to evaluate who they are and who they want to become. It shows how the world can look in a world (Columbia) where your gender and race identify you. In the end, valuable lessons are demonstrated to everyone on maneuvering a complex place such as Columbia University.