"No Child Left Behind" was an abominable failure. I'm not sure "Race to the Top" is all that better. "Business models" are "market forces" are cynical and scary solutions to our problems with education. Competition and bribery schemes have no place in the classroom.
As Ayers writes:
Reform must be guided by community empowerment and strong evidence, not by ideological warriors or romanticized images of leaders acting like they’re doing something, anything. Waiting for Superman has ignored deep historical and systemic problems in education such as segregation, property-tax based funding formulas, centralized textbook production, lack of local autonomy and shared governance, de-professionalization, inadequate special education supports, differential discipline patterns, and the list goes on and on.
This article from The Huffington Post is also worth a read before you give your $11 to a misguided cause, more about fear-mongering rhetoric than informed engagement with teachers and students...
The real crisis in American education isn't teachers' unions preventing incompetent teachers from getting fired (as awful as that may be), it's the single-minded focus on standardized test scores that underlies everything from Bush's No Child Left Behind to Obama's Race to the Top to the charter schools lionized in the film. Real education is about genuine understanding and the ability to figure things out on your own; not about making sure every 7th grader has memorized all the facts some bureaucrats have put in the 7th grade curriculum...
The film has other flaws. It insists all of America's problems would be solved if only poor kids would memorize more: Pittsburgh is falling apart not because of deindustrialization, but because its schools are filled with bad teachers. American inequality isn't caused by decades of Reaganite tax cuts and deregulation, but because of too many failing schools. Our trade deficit isn't a result of structural economic factors but simply because Chinese kids get a better education. Make no mistake, I desperately want every kid to go to a school they love, but it seems far-fetched to claim this would solve all our country's other problems. At the end of the day, we have an economy that works for the rich by cheating the poor and unequal schools are the result of that, not the cause.
Thoughts? Has anyone seen the movie? Are these criticisms apropos?
Our friend Jason Livingston points to another new film tackling education as a better alternative to Waiting for Superman. Chekhov for Children by Sasha Waters-Freyer "tells the inspiring story of an ambitious undertaking – the 1979 staging on Broadway of Uncle Vanya by New York City 5th & 6th graders, directed by the celebrated writer Phillip Lopate." (Interestingly, one movie's title—the more successful of the two—has a fictitious hero demanding futile patience like Godot; the other has one of the greatest storytellers of all time alongside the most important thing in this whole debate: children.)