For some time there has been much talk about “Waiting for Superman” but I now feel compelled to join the conversation.
I do believe that this movie did a lot to accelerate the dialogue about what we have done with our education system but to be honest I believe the conversation has headed down the wrong path. The problem is not charter schools vs. public schools and which is better than the other but rather what we, as adults, are doing to our children.
Albert Shanker’s original vision for the concept of charter schools has taken a twisted turn. Inevitably, the issues end up focusing on the adults instead of focusing on the children. When will we learn that it’s not about us? Both public and charter schools have deep issues – both manipulate the system to show how well they are doing and that they are the better choice.
Adults tend to get too preoccupied with their own selves and forget about the students. There are so many times I can remember interrupting a meeting and saying “Lets get back to the point and bring it back to the children for whom we are here.”
In viewing the movie one realizes that there is very little discourse about “students” within the teachers associations. The members of these associations appear focused on what their needs are and ensuring these needs are met. It’s a classic clash of the differing needs of constituents. Should all jobs providers be expected to ensure that all of their employees be able to afford a home, two cars, multiple TVs and phones, computers…………….?
The eye- opening theme of the movie is that getting a good education has become about the “haves” and the “have-nots.” There are no pardons for parents even if they “kill themselves” over how to provide the best education for their children. The movie positions the charter movement as the savior of K-12 education, despite the fact that even most charter school leaders do not agree that they are, or should be, the saviors. We cannot lose sight of the fact that not all charter schools are performing at the level that they need to (the same applies to public schools).
To be honest there are a few things in the movie that felt like a dagger stabbing my heart. Why would you allow parents and guardians to bring their child with them to hear the lottery numbers being called? What could the adults be thinking? The heartbreak of not hearing your number is, at best, “cruel”!
Another shocking point in the movie was the depiction of students as empty heads. One of the caricatures of the growing number of charter schools shows the pouring of content into the head of the student. Is this really how we think of the process of teaching and learning – students as empty vessels into which adults can pour whatever we like?
If we adults continue to pit our issues and agendas against each other we will be too busy proving our opposition wrong to make sure that we are doing what we desperately need to do – educate our children well. Please stop and focus on what is relevant and important!