Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Waiting for Superman
The Need for Education Reform
By: Chuck Colson
Are public schools rigged to benefit adults more than children? A new movie sheds light on the issue.
The ground-breaking new documentary, Waiting for “Superman” vividly highlights the problems with our public education system—and may prove a spark for educational reform across the country.
The film follows the lives of five children as their parents desperately try to enroll them in high-performing charter schools. The problem is, there are so many children trying to get into these schools enrollment is determined by lottery—often with heartbreaking results.
While highlighting the touching stories of these children, the film is a strong indictment of the adults responsible for the poor educational conditions these children are so desperate to escape.
A prime target of the movie are the teachers unions who oppose reforms and have been a key to creating a system where bad teachers can’t be fired. This indictment of the teachers unions is particularly stinging since the director of Waiting for “Superman,” Davis Guggenheim, can’t be dismissed as a conservative. He previously won an Oscar for directing Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
Guggenheim exposes our broken education system and highlights prominent reformers like Michelle Rhee, the recently-resigned Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools.
In the wake of Rhee’s resignation, the Washington Post called her a “superstar of the education reform movement” under whose leadership, “student test scores rose, decades of enrollment decline stopped and the teachers union accepted a contract that gave the chancellor, in tandem with a rigorous new evaluation system, sweeping new powers to fire low-performing educators.”
Guggenheim stumbled on the topic of education reform as he drove his children past three public schools every day to drop them off at their private school. Overcome with guilt, he realized that there was a story behind the obvious problem that not every willing child in America has access to a first-rate education.
In that moment, Guggenheim was inspired to tell this important story, and the movie will no doubt spark thousands of similar moments of inspiration for parents across the country.
Unfortunately for America’s school children, the teachers unions have gone on the offensive. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has cautioned the public that the film doesn't paint the whole picture, citing high performing public schools around the country.
But Ms. Weingarten is missing the point. This movie is not about finding a scapegoat; it’s about creating a system where great teachers can be rewarded and schools can meet the academic challenges of today.
But it will be a long, hard slog. As Waiting for "Superman" shows, the system is rigged in favor of school bureaucracies and teachers unions over schoolchildren.
Guggenheim's film about global warming created a firestorm of controversy and legislative action. And Waiting for "Superman" is certainly on track to become a full-fledged movement in its own right, while reinvigorating the education reform agenda nationwide. I urge you: go see it.