Waiting for Superman

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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.

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10 thoughts on “Waiting for Superman

  1. JoAnne says:

    For a time, I thought people like me were what was needed – well-educated young teachers who really cared. Well, as with most things that are painful to behold in this fallen world, I cared so much and so deeply that eventually I didn’t care anymore. I had been fighting the Baltimore Public School System and No Child Left Behind for so long, I had no energy left to fight the intellectual apathy and appalling familial conditions of my students and their families, what little they had of them. Now I would rather do just about anything than put my sons in an average public school.

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  2. RT says:

    I’ve been holding off on this one as well. But it’s on my Netflix queue and it’ll be in my home before I know it. I would love to hear solutions to our nation’s education problems. I’m aware the struggles are enormous and I feel quite lost as to what the solutions might be.
    I graduated with a teaching degree in MO and spent several semesters in area schools earning firsthand knowledge of the challenges of teaching. And now I’m a mother of a child in a local elementary school (in NE), so I have that perspective as well. Right now I’m struggling with the differences between schools in different parts of town. It’s not that the teaching staff and money available makes a big difference; rather, it’s parental involvement and stability of the children’s families that seems to be the dividing factor. And while I want to change the world in my neighborhood–even in one small school, just the smallest bit–I don’t know that I want to use my daughter to do so.
    So really, is Waiting for Superman going to help me out here? Or am I just going to get more mad and not know what to do with all that energy?! 🙂

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  3. ellie and abbie says:

    My degree is education & it’s my very favorite subject to think about, read about, etc.
    I’ve been wanting to watch this documentary but I’m a little afraid to do so. I think it’s going to freak me out & I’ll feel paralyzed….feel like I want to help the situation but unsure of HOW to do so.
    I’ve read a couple of different blog posts about the movie in the last week. I’m about to have to watch it myself, I suppose!
    Thanks for the post, Megan.
    -abbie

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  4. Jenn @ HarmonicMama says:

    I too homeschool my kids and I think too few see this as a viable option. I haven’t see this yet, so you’re not the last, but I have seen Race to Nowhere which describes the stress on the other side of the education divide. The stress and pressure for highschool students to do well and get into the “right” university. It talks about how these kids too give up on life and check out.

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  5. kristen says:

    Poverty is the enemy we fight.
    I know statistics aren’t the be-all, but this really frames the problem:
    http://nasspblogs.org/principaldifference/2010/12/pisa_its_poverty_not_stupid_1.html
    Until we can break the cycle of poverty and all of its many problems, we won’t “fix” public schools. We will still have people with the money to make better choices for their families (by moving to a better district, homeschooling, or paying for private schools) and those who don’t. And those who don’t will attend school with other families in the same boat and not be exposed to very many people with the skills to help them succeed.

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  6. SaraR says:

    I’ve just recently heard about this movie but have yet to see it. Thanks for sharing about it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see it or not but I think I’m leaning more towards the yes even though it’ll probably make me upset.

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  7. marcie.eubanks@gmail.com says:

    I hadn’t heard of this movie. It sounds powerful. Maybe we will get it from Netflix, although the thought kinda scares me. One thing that strikes me though, is that if these kids are not wanting to live, that isn’t the fault of the education system, it is the fault of the church. Poor dropouts and high strung overachievers need the Gospel, not just a better education.

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  8. Christine says:

    I hadn’t heard about this movie, but it is now on my must see list. Race to nowhere is high up too – maybe over summer break! My heart goes out to the families few choices. I wish I knew what the solutions were.

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