Not a Film Review

It has been hard for me to get this post started. I have been trying for over a week now. There has been an overwhelming amount of commentary about education in general. Most of this has been prompted by the new documentary Waiting for Superman. I have not seen the film, and probably will not see it until it hits DVD or instant stream. I have watched the trailer numerous times, and have read countless reviews. At least at this stage, my interest in this film is tepid. I have already known that the famous “No child Left Behind” which has been translated into “Leave No Child Untested” was catastrophic at it’s inception. I am also aware that Obama has not shown any sign of changing this policy, other than in name. The program and other typical institutional ventures, for me, show no more promise. I think a chain gang would have better results.

Directed by David Guggenheim, who also did Inconvenient Truth, another film I found questionable, Waiting for Superman tries to dissect the current melee over lotteries and early stigmatization on children, about their futures. The trailer alone is heart breaking, which I believe is intentional. But from what I can gather from the reviews, Guggenheim does not really offer any viable alternatives. His interest is in propping up charter schools, whom from one recent article, has pumped millions into marketing themselves as “alternative.” See that article here.

From Slate’s review

On The Root, R. L’Heureux Lewis argues that this film’s vision of charter schools as the cure for what ails American education is too simplistic, and even without being an education expert, I can sense that he’s right. Guggenheim cherry-picks his examples, and for every charter school that produces excellent results, there are many more that don’t. But even so, Waiting for “Superman” excels at laying out the chicken-and-egg problem of inner-city education, which I haven’t ever seen exposed in such stark terms (except on the TV show The Wire): Is it failing neighborhoods that produce failing schools, or the reverse?

The other day I sat down and watched the classic film “If” starring a very young Malcolm McDowell. The film is brutally realistic in the attitude the established British Boys school system shows it’s students. The film is alleghorical, but its depictions are taken from fact. Everything is about sublimation and authority. Let us fast forward to the present day and the same conditions exist in another form. Placing students at desks and barking information at them still garners the same results. If you have taken the time to watch the video in my previous post, you will understand our national dilemma. A situation that public, private, charter nor parochial schools can solve. Our great need is to create critical thinkers. Innovators, designers, teachers who think outside the box. Way outside. So outside that there is no box.

Guggenheim’s other film An Inconvenient Truth made its point with lots of graphs and pie charts. Although I think the issue of global warming is highly important, it is still relatively inconclusive. What is conclusive though is the massive build up of garbage in our oceans, plastic islands in the Pacific, toxic build up in the atmosphere etc. etc. I feel that when it comes to education, and our children, we need to look at our attitudes towards our young. What delusion do we want to foist on them. And what tools will they acquire in struggling to solve some of the above problems.

The second film that I have not seen but have also reviewed the trailer, is Race To Nowhere. The film has had only limited screenings, and I believe goes public this month. I am embedding the trailer here for you to see because in truth, I do not expect it to get the press coverage that Waiting for Superman has gotten. But from what I see here, it is the more important point about education that needs to be made.

If this trailer does not hint at what our real problems in education are, then I would have to gather that you are unreachable. It is our own children telling us what is wrong. It is they who are going to occupy the future, a future from where I am sitting is up in the air. Getting an education so that “I can get a job” is a ship that has already sailed. The jobs are non existent. We have to create new opportunity. New ventures. We need to do this now. The party is over and the treasury has been raided by pirates. The coffers are empty. And my own son holds the answers to what is ahead. He is already thinking about how to solve the problems, because he is in an environment where he has to opportunity to do so. An environment that is informed by love and interest in who we are as human beings.

The other day, as I was getting on a city bus, the bus driver was chastising some boys about not having their metro cards. Having just returned from Copenhagen where children are not required to have metro passes, I found it odd. After all, these were young children about 10-12 yrs old. My son cannot even find his shoes or belt in the morning. So I went to the driver and told him why it is that my son does not lose his metro card. I showed him my wallet and there it was, sitting right there, behind my own card. I told him that it was inevitable that the boys would lose or misplace their cards, just by the very fact of who they were. But the system somehow expects them to be young adults, not children. I expressed to this driver that it was because we as a society, do not love our children. It is all lip service. Seeing what all the films mentioned above suggest, I would have to say that I am not the only one who sees it that way. Even if some say that David Guggenheim might be misguided, at his very heart he wants some kind of reform. I just do not think that “charter” schools are enough.

In closing, you cannot accept this as a review of any movie. I have not seen any of the films in full other than “If,” which I recommend, just by the very fact that when it was made, it pissed off the British establishment. But I have to say that not much has changed in the way we view children. If we want something different, we have to try something different. Maybe when I finally see either of these films, I will have more to say. I just hope I am not in tears when I write it.

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One Comment on “Not a Film Review”

  1. John Webber says:

    Thank You Bruce,
    Raising critical thinkers at home and in a democratic school. Sounds fair.
    I remember seeing an odd billboard on a road in PA many years ago. Odd in a sense that it was the only one in a row that wasn’t promoting a commercial product or selling a service.
    Just black text on a white rectangle, it said;
    “Teach your children good judgment and your job is done”


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