Posted by: sisterhosea | October 15, 2010

Waiting for Superman-Public Education At Risk

I’m not a teacher but as a media literacy specialist, I speak to teachers introducing them to the world of media literacy, especially in connection with values and Catholic living. Most of the teachers I have spoken with are dedicated, hard working individuals with their student’s best interest at heart. Most are catechists or teachers in a Catholic school. There is a deeper reason for their commitment to teaching than just a job. They want to help their students become the best disciples of Jesus Christ that they can be.

 The public school system is different. As I sat in the theater watching Waiting for Superman, I found myself thanking God that the public schools I attended as a child gave me a great education. I attended schools in the suburbs of Seattle. But lots and lots of inner city kids are not getting the education they need and deserve. It is these children who are the subject of this moving film.

 We meet Anthony from Washington, D.C. He’s being raised by his Grandma because his Dad died of a drug overdose. He’s bright but his elementary school doesn’t have much to offer.  The same goes for Daisy who lives in the Bronx. At age 11, she has already written to the college she wants to attend when she graduates.  But with the school she attends, she won’t be prepared for college when the time comes. The other kids featured in Waiting for Superman are in similar situations.

 Then I learned something about the public school system, how elementary teachers can be tenured after only two years of teaching. That means they can’t be fired if they are not doing their job. To some it just means they have a job for life, so they don’t put any effort into being a good teacher. One teacher mentions, “I get paid whether you learn or not.” Definitely not an attitude I would want the teachers of my kids to have.

 The movie does a good job of showcasing some charter schools that have popped up all over the country trying to give more options to parents who want good schools for their kids but can’t afford to send them to a private school. But what happens is that there are many more kids wanting to get into these schools than places available. It tore out my heart to watch kids waiting as the lottery for available spots at the charter schools took place.  In this country of ours, still very much a superpower in the world, the future of some kids is decided by the luck of the draw. If your number is called, you get to have an education, but if it isn’t, too bad.

 We’ve been shown what works. Now the policies need to change to allow the reform to happen. If you have school age children, this movie is a must-see.

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