Two films on American education are playing this month: Waiting for Superman, and Race To Nowhere. I saw Superman today (Race is not available in our area right now). [UPDATE 2010-12-02: “Race” post.]
I sat in a theater with 4 people today to watch Superman. Though it was 4:30pm on a Friday, it was a picture to me of perhaps how present this issue is in the conscious of the “everyday” American. I know that this perception is not completely true, but it certainly feels this way when peering through the lens of media, entertainment, and government.
While there is a fair amount of controversy surrounding the film (NPR, NYTimes, New York Review), and the reality that no sub-two-hour production could ever capture all the intricacies and nuances of this diversely variegated issue, the film does one thing really well–engaging the emotion and soul and drawing your attention back to the heart of the issue: the kids. I kept hearing from people that the film will “make you mad.” And that it did. I am continually perplexed as to why youth are not the number one priority in our culture. In the critical area of education where politics, unions, tenure, and incompetency leaves our students behind, my emotions of discontent are further exacerbated. If there really are proven solutions out there that are working every day, right now, what in the world would ever cause us to hinder those efforts?–especially if these solutions prove that our low expectations of kids (and especially kids of poverty) are flat out wrong and produce students with inner and academic strength and integrity. Michelle Rhee made a comment that seems to sum it up (not an exact quote).
Now I see what the problem is. All of this is really all about the adults.
That is, the value for the adults, their paycheck, their respect, their comfort and security is prioritized at the compromise of our children.
Damn us should there be any truth in this, and shame on us if we continue to let this be our reality.
The lottery system so prevalent in the film seems inappropriate. Why must these notifications be public rather than private? Is it to prove the “fairness” of the draw to ensure there is no “behind the scenes” payoffs, or people on the inside “fixing” the system? That seems to be the most logical explanation. Still, it appears that greater lessons of tact and compassion are needed in these venues.
Bottom line, I’m thankful for the film for it is truly “pro-kid” as someone wrote. And I’m deeply thankful and inspired by the tens of thousands of teachers, administrators, politicians, etc., that are working diligently hard for the kind of reform that prioritizes our kids and their academic integrity. They are heroes, no doubt. But just as I sat in an empty theater this afternoon, I feel as if our American ethic is filled with entertainment, pleasure, and personal satisfaction and void of sacrificial, long-term, next-generation ethics. I pray that the value for youth in the conscious of our culture is stoked to its hottest degree.
As I walked out of the theater, there was a long line for Harry Potter.