A wave of hype has surrounded the opening of the new film “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary that focuses on the plight of urban families who see charter schools as their only opportunity for quality education.
The film portrays public education in general as failing, teachers unions as the villains and charter school leaders as the heroes. Progressive as well as conservative commentators (for example, Rethinking Schools and Frederick Hess) have written that the film takes the complicated issue of how to improve education for poor families and oversimplifies it beyond belief.
One thing is undeniable: The film’s release and its attendant hype have put the problems of urban schools front and center and created opportunities to make the case for supporting and improving public education.Â Now is the time for supporters of public schools to push back against simplistic arguments, remind people about many successful public schools and public school teachers and demand policies that support instead of attack our public schools.
Many groups have started campaigns to rebut the film’s anti-teacher, anti-public school message. Citizens for Public schools has a fact sheet and is leafleting the film’s screenings in Newton, Brookline and Cambridge. Rethinking Schools has a Facebook page, NOT Waiting for Superman, with links to many good analyses of the film and calls to action. CPS member Bill Schechter has written an eloquent personal statement about the importance and existence of great teachers in many public schools.
Superman isn’t coming. The time to defend public schools is now.
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