Waiting for “Superman” is a new film about America’s malfunctioning education system by Davis Guggenheim, the Academy Award-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth. It’s a cool title for a movie filled with scary stories and statistics about today’s educational system.
My three kids all grew up to be teachers; the oldest is now an elementary school principal, my middle teaches at the college level while working in his biochemistry lab, and my youngest has a pre-Kindergarten class at a nursery school.
When they share their workdays, their classroom encounters, and their personal teaching stories panic wells up in my throat. How can what they tell me be true? How can this be happening?
My kids’ consistent message is “parent involvement.” There isn’t much. My oldest does a neighborhood walk-through prior to school starting to meet parents and students in their homes. He’s lucky to find one of every five parents at home. Usually he finds the unsupervised students at home, Dad having left the family a long time ago and single-parent Mom working her second or third job at night and on the weekends.
Parent-teacher conference nights at school are dismal. Again about one of every five parents show up…if it’s a good night. Other stories are just as scary: children arrive at school starving…literally not remembering their last meal. Others arrive in the same clothes they’ve worn for a week. Still others never have permission slips signed, money for field trips, or anything else that a parent would need to handle with their child.
Homework? Forget about it. Penalty for not completing it? Well, there was a time a student’s grandfather bypassed school security (security? in an elementary school?) and attacked my son in his classroom because my son was not going to allow his grandson, who had consistently failed to turn in homework assignments, go on a play day field trip.
According to Time magazine, Waiting for “Superman”, scheduled to be released on Sept. 24, is a documentary that follows five kids and their parents as they try to escape their neighborhood public schools for higher-performing public charter schools. The movie explains how it could be that the U.S., since 1971, has more than doubled the money it spends per pupil, yet still trails most rich nations in science and math scores.
While the movie appears to concentrate more on students and teachers and school system failures, you’ll have a tough time convincing me the root of the problem still is the lack of parents’ involvement in their children’s education. Let’s watchWaiting for ”Superman” and then, together, figure out how to help this next generation of students become the educated individuals they deserve, and need, to be!
United Way of the Greater Triangle concentrates on the basic building blocks for quality of life: education, income, health and safety. Let’s take a good hard look at our education basic building block and see what we can do together!