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I’m Not Waiting for Superman

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Waiting for Superman, Davis Guggenheim’s new educational film, is presently receiving a media blitz. In the film, Guggenheim follows five students in their educational journey. According to the Waiting for Superman movie website, ”In spite of their rousing determination and grit, the shocking reality is that most of the film’s touching and funny cast of kids will be barred from a chance at what was once taken for granted: a great American education.”

The film breaks up the educational problem into several sections of need: kids, teachers, administrators, unions, schools, states and the nation at large. Inevitably, these kids have one hope of receiving a good education: a lottery system to attend a better public school. The implication that a good education in America today can only take place through a lottery system for specialized schools is simply not true.

I appreciate the attention that Guggenheim’s movie is giving to education reform, although I do not appreciate the big business media blitz to privatize education. Waiting for Superman is the metaphorical surfboard of big business stakeholders to privatize education for financial gains.

This powerful movement of policymakers superimposing structure to the educational system started back in the 1980s. Nicholas Lemann stated in a 1997 issue of Atlantic Monthly that in the 1980s “the idea of raising standards in public education emerged as a national cause.” In 1983 the National Council for Excellence in Education commissioned by the Reagan administration produced a report, A Nation at Risk.

This report identified a national education crisis and recommended nationwide administration of standardized testing by states and the local educational systems. The use of the testing data was to better diagnose and evaluate student progress.

With standardized testing came the creation of businesses to produce the books and products for the schools to utilize to accomplish their testing goals. Today, educational concerns are many. For over 25 years, big business has been riding on the backs of policymakers’ decisions in the field of education.

The great hope of America’s youth does not lie in privatizing the public school system, because that benefits the same big business conglomerates, not the students. Waiting for Superman and all of the attention it is receiving directly benefit the movement to privatize education.

In contrast, Race to Nowhere, a student-centered documentary, was made on a shoestring budget of $200,000. Director Vickie Abeles painted the picture of how today’s youth are struggling in the current system and how a collaborative effort of students, parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders is needed to problem-solve the needs of the today’s kids. The movement to privatize education does not directly benefit from such a collaborative approach.

The message of Race to Nowhere is not implying that a new private educational system is needed for kids to be healthy, happy and whole. The student-centered educational message of Race to Nowhere has been ignored by the media. An Internet search of Waiting for Superman yields 944,000 results, while a search of Race To Nowhere yields only 77,200 results. Why has Race to Nowhere gotten little to no attention from major media sources when compared to Waiting for Superman? It is simple; Waiting for Superman is a movie that has a villain and a quick fix provided by big business, while Race to Nowhere calls for a collaborative movement of communities.

Big business will not make any money on students, parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders collaborating for a healthier happier educational system. A fea monger message of a poor kid in the Bronx who cannot seem to receive an education unless a private system is created beats the path toward a money-making venture.

I’m not waiting for Superman and neither is any kid in our country. What we are waiting for is a grassroots collaborative effort that really puts kids first instead of using them to fuel big business profits.

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  • Desiree Morales

    I’m itching to see Waiting for Superman, and thanks to you, I’m now intrigued by Race to Nowhere. Why not use the sudden flood of attention education reform is garnering over WFS to help publicize RTN?

    It’s refreshing to hear from someone else who is concerned about privitization and quick fixes. I worked closely with charter schools in California, and while everyone had altruistic motives, they weren’t fixing the world the way Bill Gates seems to think they can.

  • Lisa Johnson

    Thank you so much for your comment. Race to Nowhere has basically been shut out of the education discussions on Education Nation by NBC.

    I currently work inside the public school setting and am well aware of the challenges. When screened at my school the students were overwhelmed with emotion and expression regarding the workload and testing climate.

    I am spreading the news as much as possible so are the people at Race To Nowhere. Major media is shutting us out! Please let me know what you think of the movie and join us on Facebook.

  • I have a lot to say about education but my hands and mouth are tied at the moment. But a personal friend and I have the ear of the admin and have put a bug into it about we teachers are NOT happy with the wave of charter schools. That’s all I can say really. But keep up the drumbeat!

  • It is going to open at the Magnolia in Dalls which is far for me to travel. It might come to FW but if not I will have to wait to see it.

  • Lisa Johnson

    You can screen it yourself in your area. Go to the Race to Nowhere website. Bring a screening to your area and your area can have the discussion about what it needs. Include students, parents and administrators in the dialogue. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Thanks for the tip Lisa. We have lots of outlets.