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If I did not live 45 minutes (in light traffic) from the nation's capital and did not read The Washington Post Metro section most days, would I pay much attention to public school kids' Education/College Prep/Future-building Superman of the book and movie, Waiting for Superman? This movie, a documentary, incites tons of anticipation. It starts this week across the country, and I can hardly wait to see it.
There are lots of discouraged kids all over this land. A man featured in the movie, who grew up in a struggling community, recently said on TV that he cried when his mom told him Superman was not real. He said his hopes for "getting out" were dashed. Maybe in thriving areas like Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs, most kids do not know that feeling. But, in neglected urban, rural, and suburban neighborhoods, there are many kids waiting for something to get them out. Even if they cannot name what or who it is, they are waiting for something that will happen, or someone that will come to save their day.
I don't want to bog down in the DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee's dealings with union leadership, but when teachers cannot pass basic proficiency tests in math, science, or English, then remediation or See Ya Later, Teacher seem obvious options to me. Kids, says Rhee, should come first, not last. Buildings need to be qualified, too, and Eastern High School and other deteriorating schools in DC will no longer languish in decay, thanks to restorations under her leadership, even though opposed.
Maybe like me, you cried over your school, too, although for reasons like these: Those doggone mean teachers expected a lot from you; they fussed if you worked below par. They called your mama if you didn't show up one morning, or have your homework done; or, they had the school secretary put in a call. Some people, even parents, may have shaken their heads over the teachers' old cars or clothes. Most parents, however, praised those "horrible" or "unfair" teachers that pushed you to succeed and got low pay for giving their best.
Well, thank goodness teachers make more money and get better benefits now. And thank goodness there are some really good teachers. Yet, somehow with progress in professional recognition, in too many places the kids got left behind. They grew up without good teachers, and their kids and now grand-kids got the same, and are trailing, too. Maybe not in your town or mine, but in lots and lots of places. Way too many places have mayors, councils, boards of education, superintendents/chancellors, principals, and/or teachers that do not love kids, trust kids, or respect the needs of kids...at all or enough. If they did, don't you think we'd hear less about education budgets and new theories and more about how every student from age six to 17 can read and write at first, third, and sixth grade levels? But that's not happening in too many places. This is not a new problem; it's been worsening for over 30 years. And the solutions are not mysteries that need Sherlock Holmes to solve.
Apparently, too many of us who want kids to have excellent and devoted teachers have been hoping, voting, praying...or, have we been waiting for Superman to come to the rescue? Where is the Clark Kent among us? Is it Michelle Rhee, and others hoping to be like her? Is it us? I'm going to see the movie, in hope of answers. I opine that Waiting for Superman will give every viewer a lot of ideas, surprises, maybe a few shocks...and fresh thinking about kids first in public education.
(c)2010 Jean Purcell