By Sam Piha
"Waiting for Superman," the documentary on the American education system, is now at local theaters. The good news is that this documentary will stimulate a conversation and dialogue about how to improve education in America. We urge everyone interested in education to see the film and enter into the discussion. The bad news is it may prove to further the polarization between teachers and school critics. The fact is that the problems in our current education system are not the fault of any single entity, and fixing it will require the participation of the entire community.
The film clearly has a number of flaws, which is to be expected, given the complexity of the problem. The animation that portrays good teachers as successfully pouring knowledge into the brains of students misrepresents what we know about motivation and learning. Learning is not about being a receptacle for information, but rather is about children actively engaging in their own learning, which we promote in the Learning in Afterschool project.
Secondly, it puts too much spotlight on teachers unions. Teachers unions are only part of the problem, but one has to acknowledge that they set themselves up for criticism by being the first to resist any effort to reform our schools. Thirdly, it suggests that charter schools are the only answer. Geoffrey Canada would be the first to acknowledge that charter schools are not the sole solution, as only one in five charter schools outperform public schools.
Hopefully the dialogue that will be stimulated by this film will be productive, because it's time that we push the adult interests aside and focus our attention on improving the futures of our children. Tell us what you think.