It's unfortunate than in its coverage of this film, the Journal Star missed an opportunity to investigate the issue Waiting for Superman misrepresents. The film review suggests that the film is "not journalism," but the reviewer doesn't perform much in the way of journalism either. Nowhere are LJS readers presented with an analysis of either the real issues the film purports to address OR an analysis of the filmmaker's egregious manipulation of the facts. This is no big secret--a number of easily accessible pieces from highly respected journalistic enterprises have outlined how Guggenheim re-staged scenes, presented factual errors as truth, and engaged not in documentation of the challenges that education in America faces, but rather a polemic that places all blame on teachers and legitimizes privatization of schools. The JournalStar suggests that the film has "generated debate" but its reporters offered no suggestion of the issues that caused that controversy.
What IS clear is that we in Nebraska are fortunate to still have control of PUBLIC schools with elected boards of education that we the people control. We also have public schools that attempt to educate ALL children. So unlike the charter world where, amazingly enough, even though it's a "lottery" for admission, significantly fewer of the students are English language learners, have special needs, are on federally-funded or reduced lunch, our public schools here in Nebraska deal with every kid who comes through the door. A free public education for all people is the genius of America. Do we really want to turn our schools over to charter corporations (check it out in New York--they're legally set up as corporations, not non-profits)that get to cherry pick students, and get rid of the students as well as the teachers who don't perform? (The film also fails to note Geoffrey Canada's well-publicized "firing" of an entire class of middle school kids who didn't score well enough on standardized tests. Where did those kids end up? Oh, yeah, the public schools. . . .)
And regardless of how much you like the mayor of your city, do you really want him or her running the school system as a department of his/her office, with no direct public access to open discussion and decision-making like we have through regular school board meetings? This is the model that Waiting for Superman suggests--the mayors have taken over schools in New York and D.C., handed public money to private corporations (try to go to one of their board meetings)and painted all public schools and all teachers as the sources of the problem. The people who are really trying to remake education are the teachers in our community (and thousands across the country, including big cities)who get up every day and go to classrooms where they deal with a huge variety of student capacity, background, parental interest, resources and more. But that's not nearly as dramatic as a system that creates winners and losers in some sort of made-for-the-camera ritual.
Monday, February 21, 2011
We in Nebraska are fortunate to still have control of PUBLIC schools
Anonymous comment on Waiting for Superman review in Lincoln, Nebraska