Waiting for a Superman
今日、Teachers Collegeにて Waiting for Superman という新作ドキュメンタリー映画の特別試写会がありました。『不都合な真実』 でオスカーを受賞したことでも知られる デイビス・グッゲンハイム (Davis Guggenheim) がアメリカの悲惨な公立教育の現状をテーマに挑んだ映画です。『不都合な真実』 と同様に世論を大いに動かす力を持っている作品だ、とメディアによる前評判も高かったので観に行きました。とりあえず英語でメモをとったのでシェアしたいと思います。アメリカの公教育に興味を持っている人に読んで頂けると嬉しいです。時間があれば今度日本語でまとめたいと思っています。
Today, Teachers College hosted as the Constitution Day Program an event titled “Special Pre-Release Film Screening and Faculty Panel: Waiting for Superman.” This is a new documentary film on education by an Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, the director of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. As a former public school teacher and an education student very much interested in school reform that mobilizes non-traditional vehicles of communication for reaching out to a wide range of audience, I couldn’t miss this opportunity. There was also a post panel discussion by 4 professors of education, which was very very interesting.
It was a meaningful learning opportunities in many ways, and I wanted to share my memo with you. If I have time, I want to organize my thoughts into an essay in Japanese in a near future.
About the film
It contrasts the horrible conditions of today’s public schools in the U.S. and a couple of successful charter schools and their leaders’ heroic stories. Although the film does portray hopeful educational interventions, it confronts the audience with harsh realities - “Choice” does exist but is not for everybody and many of our children’s futures are decided by lottery to get into those rare choice schools.
My reaction to the movie
A good film which stirs the audience’s emotions regarding the education of this country’s children…however, the narrative it provides is very one-sided and it fails to understand the complexity of school reform by providing very simplistic solutions…a good example of non-education expert who thinks he has a magical idea for school reform. But then, this film still gives me a slight hope that it might raise people’s consciousness about the failing public school system and stir up a major dialogue on education.
Points made by the film
The primary reasons our public schools are failing are bad teachers and the tenure system as well as teachers’ unions that protects them. There are a few successful charter schools that point to these problems, but the changes are not so easy because of the teachers’ unions that stand in the way.
A major assumption made by the film
“Good teachers” are simply those who can raise students’ test scores.
What the movie didn’t show...
- That only 1 out of 5 charter schools are given “successful” evaluation.
- That those succeeding charters really enjoy the privileged schooling environment such as parents who are extremely committed to their children’s education and enormous funding from the private sector. This begs an important question: Is it still possible to scale up these “hot” school reform initiatives to the national level reform?
- The unfair school funding scheme and the resulting funding disparity between rich and poor districts. Yes, there are hopelessly bad teachers who shouldn’t be teaching our children. BUT, given that there are a number of education finance lawsuits such as Campaign for Fiscal Equity, is it really fair to blame on the failing schools and their teachers without addressing this issue? It was extremely interesting to hear Prof. Michael Rebell’s point about the right to decent education not being a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right and what’s really needed is a movement to address this issue.
- Charter school movement’s original intent was to understand what standard regulations stood in the way of improving public schools (Michael Rebell).
- The kind of ideology that’s driving today’s mainstream school reform discourse is twofold:
Get rid of bad teachers
Recruit teachers from topnotch universities (Jeffrey Henig).
- The title, “Waiting for a Superman”, is completely contradictory because the film starts out giving a message that Superman never comes so we need to start doing something by ourselves but ends up providing a simplistic solution that, most likely, would never come true (Jeffrey Henig).
- The missing voice: Teachers (Aaron Pallas). So, here we are discussing how to improve schools and teachers, but why are we not hearing from the very teachers? Unfortunately, the discourse of school reform is done always in this way even in Japan…