Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Waiting for Waiting for Superman

Posted by: Noel Jones

Perhaps by now you have heard about the highly-anticipated new documentary called Waiting for Superman about the disastrous state of our nation's educational system. Anyone who took part in the school board meetings that led up to 72 teachers getting fired, knows that our high school has been in Corrective Action II for over three years. But if misery loves company, then I guess our consolation is that school districts are in crisis all over this nation, and we are all waiting for someone to save us. 

This film is such a big deal that it is partially responsible for the airing of NBC's Education Nation--a one week intensive focus on problems and potential solutions for America's education crisis, featuring multiple interviews with our Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan, as well as the infamous Michelle Rhee of Washington D.C. who has made waves by shutting
numerous failing schools and firing low-performing teachers in our nation's capital, which had developed a reputation for being among the lowest performing schools in the nation.

For all the rootin' tootin' talk from so-called "patriots" that "we're #1!" Here is a cold, hard reality check. We are not #1. When it comes to education, the United States is #25 in math, and #21 in science. We used to be #1. Not any more. This a film about trying to figure out what went wrong, and how to make it right again.

But can I ask, why is it that when this film has come out already in New York, it isn't available yet in the theaters here? What gives? And for those who have lived here longer than I have--how long does it usually take a new movie to get to Easton, once it's released? I may have to go see it in New York...

And if anyone has seen the film, please post your impressions here!

[p.s. OK, I had to add to this post because of the new information below]

Remember the PSBA from my earlier post on the school board's violation of PA's Sunshine Act, which guarantees that the public gets to speak at public meetings that decide how our tax dollars will be spent? Remember how the salaries and pensions of this very large organization are paid with OUR tax dollars, and yet, as revealed in the last school board meeting, they are advising our school boards to try to shut out public comment? Well get a load of this, from the PSBA below--apparently, they feel that the film is unfair because--gasp--it criticizes school boards:

From PSBA: Responding to 'Waiting for Superman' and 'Education Nation'
Two separate media events will cast a critical eye on public education in late September. PSBA thought you should be aware of these events so you can be prepared to respond to your communities, if needed. The two events – the release of the documentary “Waiting for Superman” and NBC Universal’s “Education Nation” summit – have the potential to present an unbalanced view of public schools and school boards.   PSBA encourages school entities in Pennsylvania to embrace the opportunity presented by these events to share their positive stories and open a dialog to get people involved in making traditional public schools, which educate the vast majority of students in this country, even better.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog Sept 27:
What ‘Superman’ got wrong, point by point


Ryan Champlin said...

I guess I'll have to see the movie. Just reading the Washington Post article gives me the impression that it is pretty one-sided and ideological. If, indeed, the Post's article is a correct assessment of what the film promotes, then I would have to disagree whole-heartedly with the film-makers.

For example, I think funding is a huge issue with education, contrary to what the Post says the film says. I think the way we fund education, with higher property taxes propping up the schools with students who don't need the most help and lower taxes depressing the districts that do need it, in a totally assinine and unsustainable way. Behind that is the way our land use regulations determine our urban growth, which is the real problem. But since we will likely not change our land use habits, we need to figure out a way to better equalize funding across incomes.

And if the part about how children learn is anywhere close to how the Post article portrays it, then the film is laughable. Sadly, I think a lot of people think the point of school is to hear facts and regurgitate them. This is why we are so behind. We have forgotten how to teach children to think.

These are just my reactions to the article's portrayal of the film. I'll reserve judgement on the film until I see it.

noel jones said...

Ryan--thanks for posting. I agree with much of what you are saying here--the tax structure is ridiculous. However, I don't think that these problems are ones that can be fixed by throwing more money at them anyway.

On your point about kids being taught to regurgitate facts, and not how to thinking critically and independently, I agree 100%.

I look forward to seeing the movie when it finally reaches Easton, but I laugh (more like, snort) at the idea of the PSBA being indignant about the film making school boards look bad. There is nothing that can make our school board look worse than its own behavior--some of that on the advice of the PSBA that WE pay...it just burns me...

Does anyone know how long it usually takes movies to reach Easton?

carinne said...

I believe the big city releases have way more to do with what the film industry allows, rather than what the small city area theatres want. The movies are “tested” to see how well they do financially before national release. I think. Some movies seem to come to Easton (or 19th Street theatre Allentown) shortly after NYC release, while others only come if they win awards (Academy, Golden Globe, etc.)

AprilDiana said...

Let's put our heads together to find a way to see this film sooner rather than later!

No more waiting for a Superhero! I applaud the people highlighted on this blog. Noel's stories of involved community members demonstrate the engagement we need to see in our local arenas if we are going to take equal opportunity--or even Democracy--seriously.

The concern that America is falling way behind other nations as well as the concern about inequality of educational opportunities created by funding through property taxes is not new...For reference read "A Nation at Risk" (1983) and "Savage Inequalities" by Jonathan Kozol (1991). The latter was made into a documentary in the '90s called, Children in America's Schools.

A Nation at Risk

Savage Inequalities

noel jones said...

Thanks for the links, April!