Waiting for Superman

Picture 31
Maybe I’m the last person to watch Waiting for Superman. Maybe I needed to be mentally prepared for what I was about to see. Maybe I already expected what was laid out before me. Maybe ignorance isn’t as bliss as we all thought it was.

Anyone who has hung around my blog for any length of time knows that I care deeply about education. It’s true, though, that I primarly care deeply about the education of my own children. But isn’t that sort of the point? Any parent who is doing their job cares about the education of their own children. I think I got that drilled into me tonight more intensly than I ever have before.

Geoffery Canada tells the story at the very beginning of the movie about how he loved Superman comics and the character of Superman himself. He really thought Superman would be coming soon to fix all of his problems. One day his mother informed him that Superman wasn’t real. He started crying and he says he wasn’t crying because Superman wasn’t real in the way Santa Clause isn’t real. He was crying because for the first time he realized that no one was coming who had the power to save them.

Geoffery Canada is doing amazing things in Harlem with underserved kids and these kids are, in turn, doing some amazing things as a result.

There are other great people doing great things for kids in our country, but overall, it’s too little and, I fear, too late.

Another quote from the movie: Millions of kids are walking the streets with no vested interest in living. The schools have failed them and they have no reason to live.

One school was mentioned in which in a time span of 40 years, 40,000 kids out of 60,000 did not graduate. This school shows an enrollment of 1,200 kids in the 9th grade each year, but by the time they reach their sophomore year, 800 of them have dropped out.

800 HAVE DROPPED OUT.

The statistics are staggering, but more so because for every school they profiled there are hundreds more.

I learned to distrust and, dare I say it, hate, the NEA when I was pursuing my Early Childhood Education degree from Oklahoma State University in the early 90’s. OSU didn’t teach me to hate the NEA because they were also in disagreement with the principles of the organization, they taught me to hate it with their outright worship of said organization. Incidentally, they also taught me to distrust and disagree with the concept of whole language reading instruction in the same manner.

More than the stories of the failing schools and sickening statistics and the lack of anyone in the position of power to actually DO anything about it came the very real profiles of the five students who just wanted a fighting chance at life by means of a decent education.

Watching the lotteries at the end of the film filled me with the intense dread on their behalf and disappointment with them when most of their names/numbers did not get called.

Part of me wants to say, HOMESCHOOL YOUR KIDS IF YOUR SITUATION IS REALLY THAT BAD, but I know these parents either don’t have that as an option or don’t know they have it as an option. For these families and thousands of others, the only solution to their situations is for more Geoffrey Canadas to rise up and make it happen.

And I wonder what it will take to make more of us actually do something.

Former DC area superintendent Michelle Rhee says at the end with regards to teachers who care more about tenure and personal benefits than they do quality teaching and education, “Now I see things in a more coherent way. It becomes all about the adult.”

I wonder if it always has been.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet and you care anything at all about the state of education in this country, you really must watch it. And then we need to do something.

Let me know when you figure out what the needs to be.