Saturday, October 9, 2010

Waiting for Superman

I went to see Waiting for Superman last night in a packed, standing-room only theater. I cried at least twice. It was a great movie, and though some critics suggest (rightly, I'm sure) that it glosses over some of the more complicated realities of fixing our troubled school systems, I believe that it had a great mix of heartbreaking drama, tentative optimism, and immediate enthusiasm. They praise charter schools, and while it's true that not all charter schools are as good as the ones portrayed in this school, it's also true that we've figured out how to tell who's getting it right. That's got to be a step in the right direction, right?

I am deeply dedicated to causes of education. My job at the university is working with students who are from underprivileged backgrounds. I am very committed to this work, but I often feel like I'm not doing enough. I work with undergraduates (and sometimes high schoolers). I'm seeing the students who have persevered through great odds to get where they are. I don't have to see the ones that didn't.

I am also deeply disturbed by education as a future parent. I live in the city limits of a school district that hasn't had accreditation in years. Schools have been closed, teachers have been laid off, and parents have been outraged. But nothing has changed. I've volunteered to do workshops in the city schools and seen first-hand that the problems run deep: too few resources, not enough dedicated teachers, students who have long sense stopped trying.

I went to the only public school in my rural hometown, and though I now--after meeting lots of people who got private educations--realize that there could have been more opportunities for me (foreign languages, more advanced classes, better extra curricular activities, etc.), I truly believe that I had dedicated teachers who helped me succeed. I thank them for getting me where I am today.

I cannot, however, in good conscience send my daughter to any of the public schools in our district. And neither can most of the other people around here. My city has seen a dramatic incline in population, and this is largely because very few people stay once they have children. It's a great place to live, but an awful place to go to school. I don't know yet what we'll do when my daughter is school age, but I know we have to start planning it soon because it will definitely be expensive (private school), life-changing (a move to the county that I really don't want to make), or nerve-wracking (crossing our fingers for charter school entry like the parents in the movie).

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