Waiting for Superman

…and some thoughts on justice.


Today I re-watched the film Waiting for Superman for my night class. Last time I watched this, I felt tears streaming down my face. But let me explain. This film is about the American public education system, lotteries that kids (and parents) enter to try for admittance to public charter schools, and how we all suffer when our kids receive a poor education. This isn’t just a teacher thing, it’s an everyone thing. So why do only pre-service and current teachers watch this film?

Unrelated (or not): When we talk about social justice issues, why is the broken education system never mentioned? We talk about hunger, homeless, immigrants, those persecuted for their sexuality, race, or religion, but we never talk about kids who are denied opportunities to succeed.

I think deep down we still want to believe that a student who tries hard enough can succeed even in a poor school. But this is simply not the case. We are products of our environment.  A set of kids with a minimal chance of graduating from their high school, placed in another school with more qualified teachers, higher expectations, and longer school days could have as much as a 90% chance of graduating. And graduation from high school is only the first step. If students do make it into the elite who graduate in a poor school, chances are they are unprepared for college courses. The fact that students who fail in their neighborhood public school succeed in public charter schools tells us that students’ motivations aren’t the issue. The issue is that we aren’t serving our students by providing them with adequate opportunities for success. This is injustice to students but also to the rest of us. Without well-trained students, we cannot develop and grow our economy, we end up paying for many of these uneducated students to sit in jail, and we miss out on an individual’s unique contributions to our nation and our communities. I think it may be time to talk about this problem as an injustice and not just a less-than-perfect part of America’s infrastructure.

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