Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting for Superman: My Education

I finally got to watch Waiting For Superman, which I have wanted to since I read a Time article about it towards the end of winter semester, thanks to the forbearance of my sister and brother-in-law. For those of you who aren't addicted to education news, it is a documentary sort of about the state of public education in America. The filmmaker follows a few, mostly minority and underprivileged, families who are hoping to enroll their students in some form of charter school through the lottery system.

Although interesting, I found the movie somewhat disappointing as an intellectual exercise. The director seems to have been focused on making the, perhaps dubious, point that teachers unions are evil, charter schools are wonderful, and lottery systems for children's futures are heartbreaking. I have to admit to only agreeing with the last point. To this end, the movie barely mentioned suburban schools and gave rural schools no screen time at all, focusing almost exclusively on inner city schools.

As the product of a rural school system, I am kind of curious how they would compare. Although I'm not really sure how indicative my experience was of the average experience of those attending my school. I have to admit that I was surprised when, in high school, someone told me that drug use was not terribly uncommon among students, so what did I know about my own school? Still, I think that rural schools may have an advantage in that there is less opportunity for segregation to occur. In Waldport almost everyone in the community goes to the same school, whether they are poor or dirt poor.

That said, some people, like my elitist sister, did choose to apply for variances to attend school in Newport, where they had amenities such as electives and a music program. In her defense, we had both attended the Newport school system when we lived in Newport, so she also was going back to her friends. I, of course, had no (few) friends to which to return, which should hardly surprise people who know me, so I remained in Waldport. Those who know me will probably also not be surprised when I say that despite our size and lack of class selection, I managed to obtain quite a satisfactory education at Waldport High School.

As I have often maintained, I think it is quite possible for the motivated student to become educated in almost any environment. That said, after watching Waiting For Superman I must admit that some of the examples of terrible educators provided, who ignored or even abused their students, might be sufficient to stifle even the most inquisitive of minds. Maybe I was lucky, but all of my teachers made at least a perfunctory attempt to present the material relevant to their course, and I also had some outstanding, supportive, and challenging teachers along the way as well!

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