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Waiting for Superman? Really?

October 10, 2010

Last night, I went to see Waiting for Superman with some of my educationally/politically engaged friends. After the long-awaited début of this highly anticipated movie, I have to tell you, I was less than impressed and left a little flat. I had hoped that someone would come out with a little more of a reality based portrayal of the educational evils that face our culture, but I am afraid we saw more of the same old excuse for failing schools.

Although the film is filled with lots of accurate and chilling statistical information, that at first glance wants to make you toss your cookies at the prospect of having your kids placed in the hands of the public school system, it doesn’t present anything new to the to the informational spectrum as it relates to the failure of public education. It does set the stage to get a stranglehold on your emotions as you view the rest of the film, which in my opinion, is just another left-wing tactic designed to play on your emotions and avoid looking at the politically incorrect facts of the situation.

Davis Guggenheim, director of An Inconvenient Truth, shows us a number of economically disadvantaged families and their struggle to provide a quality education for their progeny. It is truly heart wrenching to see. He outlines strategies and obstacles of various school districts across the country who “strive” to offer education for our future leaders, but always the subtle underlying message is the lack of quality education is a “social” issue and his primary focus on urban and inner city schools reinforces that message. All but one of the families is a minority, and all the schools were of big city geography. He failed to discuss the fact that even among suburban and rural public schools, there is, and has for some time been, a remarkable decline in achievement as well, thus skirting and failing to put a fine point on the real issues of failing public schools: the teacher’s unions.

While Guggenheim does take a couple of sharply directed swipes at the unions, he fails to drive the message home by his lack of emphasis on their responsibility for the structure of today’s public school system. The unions are completely responsible for our lack of ability to address tenure, and while he does address that in the movie, he fails to look further and more intensely at the larger forest for the trees issues of how the unions have controlled/influenced law makers across the country in shaping legislation which prohibits free Americans from taking their children to schools of their choice to find quality educational services for their kids. He does address the Charter Schools, but again portrays them as an inadequately funded and over burdened system which could work, if only they had more money.

Public education doesn’t work. Lots of bad things have resulted, in our culture, because we have raised generations of uneducated masses. Social issues have escalated, not because of failing pubic schools, but because teacher’s unions have blocked the culture’s ability  to address failing public schools. In turn we have an uneducated populace that has contributed to the decline of the culture. If choice and competition were part of education’s equation, there would be no tenure, or geographical restrictions on where children can attend schools. You would also have merit pay for teachers, more parental involvement in curriculums, and higher standards expected for the educational outcomes of our children.

Stagnant ideas that failing schools are of social or economic influence have to give way to intense focus on the real culprit, teacher’s unions. In fairness, Guggenheim did attempt, more that I have seen in any recent portrayals of failing public educational documentaries, to insert some of the teacher union’s influence into the mix of the debate but he danced over and around the real issues that have cemented the decline of public education. I came away with the feeling that he feels is all fixable with more money.

I would like to see Guggenheim make a two-hour documentary on the history and development of teacher’s unions. Many questions and issues could be presented. We all know about the common and popular issues of tenure, lack of merit pay, etc. But a deeper investigation might include probing questions such as, why do organizations who claim to advocate for teachers and education have laundry lists, a mile long, of resolutions that address a variety of political issues such as genocide, the Holocaust, youth camp safety, health care awareness, violence against women and children worldwide, victims of crime, protection of senior citizens, global climate change, and the list goes on.

So, perhaps the questions about public education are wasted on why are they failing. If we take our politically corrected, brainwashed heads out of the sand we would soon start asking how can we get rid of the NEA and AFT. And while we are at it, lets throw the Department of Education on the fire, too.

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