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  • Waiting Long Enough for Superman

    Watching Waiting for Superman last week left me exhausted. For too many years, education reformers have fought hard against the very injustices in the education system portrayed in the film. The good news, however, is that this newest declaration against the intolerable conditions of a broken public education system could finally call enough attention to the persistent problems to change things for the children whom we care so deeply about.

    Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, is interviewed throughout the film. Canada talks about his childhood and how disappointed he was to learn that there was no real Superman who would save him from the hardships of his own difficult childhood. His anecdote inspired the title of the movie.

    The movie shows over and over again why ineffective teachers should be replaced with successful ones and how important that is to children’s academic progress. Fighting against such commonsense ideas are the teachers unions, which oppose the teacher evaluation, merit pay, and firing of poor teachers.

    Waiting for Superman shows several examples of successful charter schools that serve some children but do not have enough spaces for all children to receive a quality education. The reason they don’t have enough spaces is that education unions have stood in the way and opposed increasing the number of charter schools. This is just sad and unacceptable.

    The most powerful message in the film was articulated by the families of the five children from various parts of the country who all wanted the best possible education for their children. The children were wonderful as they talked about what they want for their future.

    It was very moving to listen to the parents and students articulate their dreams. As an education reformer who has organized parents for 15 years on behalf of school choice, I have heard these same heart-rending aspirations directly from thousands of parents and children in our nation’s capital and across the country.

    The most dramatic and heartbreaking part in the film was witnessing the charter school lotteries, which are held to determine which few students of the many who applied will be accepted to schools known to successfully educate and graduate students. Sitting with their parents in crowded auditoriums, you can see and feel the children’s profound disappointment as they realize that they have lost something special that they and their families badly wanted: brighter hope for their future.

    We need to provide parents and children with a full range of choices now—not wait for the broken education system to heal itself. Charter schools and voucher initiatives are succeeding. We know the solution—now it’s time to open the path of opportunity across this land, not just in a few pockets where reform has broken through the union lines.

    American education must live up to its ideal and actually educate all children in the United States, recognizing their talents and allowing them to soar!

    Virginia Walden Ford is a Visiting Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    11 Responses to Waiting Long Enough for Superman

    1. Bobbie says:

      Fail schools and fail education are beneath us as parents and mocking us as parents. It is beyond our control and so is the tax dollars paying for dummying down our youth. Get rid of government (who hasn't succeeded at a thing,) education and make schools private. Then everyone can have their individual cultural education. As individual cultures are ones own business makes it private the American culture is everyones business.

      It seems many are just taking the free college courses to get a teachers position for the sole purpose of money and benefits and who knows how many are in on Obama's agenda, like Bill Ayres and teachers unions?

      Privatize education. No government bribes (race to the top) and mandates- government standards. NO TRUST!

    2. TD, Raleigh, NC says:

      You wrote: "Waiting for Superman shows several examples of successful charter schools that serve some children but do not have enough spaces for all children to receive a quality education. The reason they don’t have enough spaces is that education unions have stood in the way and opposed increasing the number of charter schools. This is just sad and unacceptable."

      From this comment, one would surmise it has nothing to do with the number of quality teachers. One would guess that quality teachers might have ambitions and the means of satisfying ambitions is to leave eduction or else to become an administrator or a consultant. After all, why aren't you in the class room?

      Charter schools are just another education fad being sold by consultants as some kind of silver bullet that will solve an education problem. Silver bullets don't work and are the product of simple minds. Teachers unions (like all unions) make systems rigid and expensive, but those selling simple solutions offer no solution at all.

    3. Dennis Georgia says:

      Teachers like so many other professions are union members, obama owes the unions for his election and appointments. Public education is a joke, our children are not being taught by the union teachers. To suggest that teachers would be held accountable for their failure is beyond belief, they are to be treated special. I will agree they have a hard job, parents are as much to blame for the failure of the students. Parents do not discpline their children at home, so it is a given that they will not be discplined in school.

      We as parents and tax payers need to get the "guvment" out of schools, give education back to the states for funding and over site. Give the teachers the right to discpline our children, we nor they can make them learn, but they can be stoped from keeping someone else from learning. We must also hold the teachers accounbtable, fire thaose that do not teach, reward those that do.

    4. Dick Draper Whistler says:

      The US should follow the example of Denmark where they have universal school choice. The money allocated to each student by the government allows them to select the school of their choice and use that money to pay 75% of their tuition.

      This sets up competition between private and public schools for students. When students and parents are consumers allowed free choice, competition requires public schools to provide a good "product" or perish. The public school monopoly in the US, like all monopolies, abhors competition.

    5. Mark, Lexington KY says:

      To see how bad the education system is today all you have to do is read email or blog comments. A very large percentage of them will have several misspelled words and that is allowing for spell checkers.

    6. Tim AZ says:

      Who serves union leaders the best? Homer Simpson or, the individual that possesses enough self awareness to push themselves to be the best they can be at their chosen profession.

    7. William, Southeast U says:

      My entire life I have heard politicians talking about improving education, needing to spend more on education, and it never seems to fix anything. The amount spent per student is insane compared to the quality of result.

      If you are a parent whose child is already in the system you are already shafted. Nothing will be fixed in time to provide a decent education.

    8. Amanda, Virginia says:

      If your children are already in the system, you aren't necessarily shafted. I'm a mother of two, and my older son spent two years in the public school system before I pulled him out. Now I homeschool both of them, and they are thriving. It isn't easy, but it can be done. I'm not willing to watch my kids fall through the cracks while the unions oppose reform over and over again. Take the education of your children into your own hands. The government isn't going to do it for you.

    9. JWilson, California says:

      Notice the word "PARENTS." Parent investment in their children makes the difference in the education of the child, much more than the teacher. Effective teachers are necessary in public education bu PARENTS are critical to the equation.

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    11. Jim, Contra Costa Co says:

      As it happens, sitting down to read this, I had just come from a school board meeting where a rejected charter school was appealing the decision. I have become quite familiar with this charter school organization (which seeks to expand into my area), and have been impressed by their curriculum, their management, and their innovative instructional model. I may not be a professional educator, but I have had the benefit of a good public school education and two Ivy League degrees. I think I can recognize when people are competent, creative, and committed. I am convinced that this charter would be a welcome addition to our area, and yet no one involved in "the process" believes that there was any chance that our local moribund school district administration would approve them. The district simply doesn't wish to have ANYcompetition, even from a publicly funded charter school, even though there are hundreds of families in this district who would like to move their child to a "better" school. The so-called "good" schools in the district are all at maximum enrollment, and the district will not allow its students to enroll in adjacent districts. So anyone seeking a change is simply trapped in their neighborhood school, unless they can pay up to $27,000 per year for local private school tuition. (In CA, the "sending" district can decide whether to let a prospective transfer student's funding go to the "receiving" district. And of course, if they refuse, which they always do, even a good district with declining enrollment will not take that student.) What an archaic system! "Can't nobody leave this plantation less'n I say so!"

      We make all sorts of important choices for our families, but when it comes to schools, we are stuck with these geographically-defined monopolies. To "TD", who says "charter schools are just another "fad", another "silver bullet", I ask this: "How would you feel if someone told you precisely where to shop for groceries, where to get medical treatment, where to obtain legal advice, which dry cleaner to use — all based on your house address?" All of the people who supply goods and services in the real world know that if they don't provide good value, you will go somewhere else. That is the value of choice. But no one seems to understand that simple principle in the parallel bizarro universe of monopoly schools. Educators like to talk about accountability, but there can be no accountability — not in ANY institution — if the "customer" does not have a choice. You want to call choice a "silver bullet"? OK, freedom of choice IS a silver bullet — just like it is everywhere else in life.

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