I spent the weekend hung up with the flu, which gave me a chance to watch Waiting for Superman. Watching this probably made me even more sick, but that is for another post. I think most would agree that Waiting for Superman is heartbreaking. Where there is clear disagreement is how the movie spins the problem, and the diagnosis. Yet if you look hard enough, the diagnosis can be found in the movie. I recognize three key points.
Each of the families in the movie have something in common. The parents in the movie have worked hard to ensure their children's basic needs have been met. More specifically - Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
What about the kids who are not having their hierarchy of needs met? How can schools also serve as community centers for the poor? I am not suggesting teachers should work 18 hour days. I am suggesting taking a look at facilities we already own, programs we already have, and existing funding to create programs designed to prevent poverty for future generations, instead of just treating it.
Role of Government
I always thought government was supposed to help provide for those who could not provide for themselves - like children? I am a capitalist. It is painful to experience the legislative ripple effects of crony capitalism, and even more painful to hear people claim these policies are representative of capitalism. Shouldn't a capitalistic society strive to provide children with all of the tools they need to be responsible for themselves as adults? The charter schools in Waiting for Superman have the funding they need, and it's a crime that not all public schools do.
It is counterintuitive for schools to compete with each other. I do not want to 'beat' my colleagues in other districts - because I do not want any child to lose! I spend a lot of time collaborating with colleagues, and seeking ways to make every child's educational experience better. Why doesn't government find ways to reward collaboration and best practices instead of shaping policies that punish them?
On the aggregate, educators feel attacked. But for what? We do not write education laws, we are left to manage the aftermath of bad laws. We do not create poverty, we just work to prevent our students from living in poverty when they are adults. We did not bring the economy to its knees in 2008, but some politicians are bringing us to our knees to pay for it.
Public schools cannot avoid our greatest challenges like charter schools and private schools who can pick and choose who they educate. We must address these issues head on.
I admire some of our politicians. Many want what is best for America, they just lack the experience in the classroom to draft or understand education policies that are consistent with their passion for our country. It is time for politicians and educators to partner with one another as employees of our country, and work in an ongoing effort to improve our education system through student-centered legislation.
Right now, I do not see any of this changing. Educators do not write policies that change education, politicians do. Typically, classroom teachers have very little influence on education laws, if any at all. So in the mean time, I will be waiting for a politician who understands how to address the issues, and has the courage to solve them. A politician who does this is my Superman - and this is the Superman that kids and teachers are really waiting for.