The sorry state of education in some big-city public schools has been both long-lamented and tolerated in a clash between two unequal but shifting constituencies: (1) organized labor/unions and (2) an urban underclass. The former are increasingly on the defensive for intolerable educational deficiencies that are clearly indefensible, and the latter are increasingly restless if not rebellious in what is shaping up to be a classic confrontation between the irresistible force hitting "head on" the seemingly immovable object.
Sensing something has to give, "big labor" has gingerly and tentatively signaled a willingness to "move" at least slightly in deference to the obvious need for reform. Adding to the pressure is the obvious intellectual "pickle" or contradiction in which teacher unions/associations and largely progressive-controlled school boards find themselves, namely the labor movement's and progressive's own historical origins in an underclass seeking to advance themselves in society. Without relenting and compromising some, their whole rigid position could earn them the embarrassing distinction of creating another Orwellian Animal Farm, in which the pigs, once having taken control of the farm, reveal themselves to be as bad or worse than their former master. Success and high status ("high-flying, adored") often have a "curious" and ironic way of changing one's perspective on things!
Among the numerous "laments" and urgent cries for educational reform, the documentary film "Waiting for Superman" is one of the most recent and notable contributions to this ongoing debate. Focusing on the work of Harlem educational reformer Geoffrey Canada and former Washington D.C's superintendent Michelle Rhee's efforts to challenge the status quo, the film's narrative reaches an emotional peak while following the intense drama of five children, in a kind of educational lottery, vying for slots in schools/programs that will give them a better education and eventually a better life. For example, Daisy in East Los Angeles, in a desperate bid to escape her educational predicament, is among 135 peers in her group hoping to "win" one of only 10 openings at Kipp LA Prep. As one commentator observed, "It is sad that the direction of a young life depends on the dropping of a numbered ball from a plexiglass box."
While schools like the one Daisy is hoping to attend and the work of reformers like Geoffrey Canada in Harlem and Michelle Rhee in D.C. are commendable, surely we are capable also (if willing) of implementing similar reforms on a much broader scale for all of our precious youth now at serious risk in our urban public schools.
The sobering reality of the French saying, "The more things change, the more they remain the same" cautions one to temper his optimism. Thus, at the risk of sounding flippant on a serious issue, the wait for Superman to save our public schools could easily equal or exceed the one in Beckett's existentialist play, Waiting For Godot, characterized, like educational reform, by lots of "agitated" activity, repetitive talk and overall absurdity but little forward movement or progress.
Causes Brenden Allen Supports