I just finished watching “Waiting for Superman,” the recent documentary about American education, and I find myself frustrated as I think about what I saw.
Not that it wasn’t a good film: it was. It vividly depicted how adults look out for themselves instead of the children they teach, suggesting they are a major stumbling block for educational change. I don’t disagree with that; watching the film made me very glad I homeschooled my kids.
My frustration lies in two areas: first off, the families depicted in the film have put all their faith in public schools. They try to get their children into better schools; those that fail think their children’s futures are doomed. Those that succeed think all their worries are over and their children will be just fine. That faith in schools is misguided, and the fact that they are so sure of this is just plain frustrating to me because I know from experience that you can work with your own child and help them, whether after school or instead of school. So you do have options.
I think of the inner-city single mom I once met who worked as a police officer on the third shift, came home and slept a few hours and then taught her son during the day. She wouldn’t let him out of their apartment without her because their neighborhood was so dangerous. But she was determined to give him an education and keep him out of gangs. She didn’t look to schools to save her son. She took it upon herself. I wish the parents in “Waiting for Superman” would figure this out instead of relying on the school system to save their children.
My other frustration is with the common attitude displayed in the film (and most everywhere else these days) that the only way out of poverty is a college education. How well I know from my research for my latest book that only about 20% of the job openings predicted by the federal government for the next ten years will require a college degree. Telling every child that a college education is their ticket to success is just plain cruel. That myth is perpetuated in this film, and I hate to see that happening. It’s just not fair to children. Yes, some should go to college because they have an aptitude for higher learning and a desire to excel in a career area that requires a college diploma (doctor, lawyer, etc.) But to tell all children they must go? It’s outdated advice that will lead many of them to become overburdened with college debt and unable to find a decent-paying job to help them pay back what they owe.
So if you want to see a movie that will make it clear why you shouldn’t send your child to school, you’ll like this film. Otherwise, it will probably just make you sad….or frustrated like I am right now.
One more thing: while the makers of this film were more than willing to criticize lousy teachers, they also put good teachers on a pedestal. I get so tired of that attitude. Yes, good teachers are important. But so are good cops, and good doctors, and good cooks. A child’s success in life is aided by the influence of many people, not just teachers, and primarily their parents and others who love them. And even children whose parents are not exactly Parents of the Year can be positively influenced by others who are not their schoolteachers. Besides, it’s not that hard to teach kids to read, write and do math if you haven’t put them somewhere (like school) where their inborn desire to learn has been snuffed out.