I’m watching the news this morning and see commercials–commercials!–for local public school districts. I’m hearing them on the radio as I drive around. Seriously? Public schools in my area are cutting teachers and eliminating desks. Where is the money coming from for a marketing campaign? Is it just necessary to make sure the desks they have have children sitting in them?
These commercials promise to send your child to college. To make them problem-solvers. Pioneers. Supermen.
This leads me to my next prompt, because I watched that pro-teacher’s union documentary, Waiting for Superman, yesterday. It’s dramatic. At times it’s humorous. It uses trendy animation. It feels like a reality show at the end as children and their parents wait to see if their numbers are pulled in charter school lotteries. It builds empathy with a handful of children and then breaks your heart when those children don’t get into their schools of choice. It argues that good teachers make all the difference. And I wouldn’t argue with most of that.
But it doesn’t turn the lens on the parents of the children it’s highlighting. Parents who are passionate about the importance of education. So passionate that they research which charter school is most successful, navigate the bureaucracy to enter the lottery, and travel hours and sit for hours to hear if their children will gain entry to this prized school.
Education is broken. It’s taking our money and not giving us product. It’s all about the kids, but those greedy teacher unions are making it all about them.
And in some cases, the unions are providing harbor for bad teachers. Much like, in some cases, our legal system lets guilty people off the hook for crimes. But do we throw away the whole system because it does not work 100% of the time?
And here’s the problem with these types of documentaries. They can’t show the whole picture of such a complex issue in an hour and a half. People roll their eyes when they hear about a new Michael Moore documentary, but this film, which had a similar feel and used similar strategies, is receiving all sorts of serious attention and is influencing the education conversation around the country.
I wouldn’t pretend to have the answers. But I think some of the solutions aren’t too far away. I think they’re in our own homes. But those are not comfortable places to look.
If it takes a village to raise a child. You can’t blame the chief, or even the elders, if it all goes to hell.