Waiting for ‘Superman’ (2010)


I had heard that this was a breathtaking documentary, and in the end I would agree.  It gives a fairly dismal outlook for the American education system and gives the teacher’s union a pretty bad wrap.  I always do my best to avoid jumping to conclusions about groups like the teacher’s union after this type of documentary.  But what does seem clear is that there is a significant problem with US education, but the kicker isn’t that we don’t know how to do it right, it’s that there are so many forces working against it being done right.  It really makes me quite worried about the future when I have kids.

I guess this issue is not a new one.  Having had some public school experience both in China and the United States, I had a very clear perspective of the differences in performance.  A relatively recent New York Times article also reminded me of this last December.  Still, I didn’t know just how poor the conditions are before seeing the statistics in the movie on reading comprehension and math proficiency.  It really does make me wonder where all the money poured into the education system ends up.

I think a key factor that was mentioned briefly is that the system was good for the time when it was developed, but it has failed to evolve since about 1900.  The powers that be need to rethink how the entire system works, and turn it upside down.   Michelle Rhee’s work is commendable although it was swift, and in instances, it may have been unjust.  But just looking at this system makes me think that it’s one of those situations where we need to destroy everything, and just start over from scratch unless some significant changes happen soon.

How is it that teachers are not held accountable for students’ education?  A teacher who reads his newspaper during class earns the same as a teacher who is working hard and putting in extra time to tutor his students?  Sounds wrong to me.  Maybe its too business-minded of me, but I feel teacher salary should at least partially be based on their performance.  I wonder if I will be forced to enroll my future offspring in this type of system where their education will depend largely on luck of the draw.  If so, I may be headed to China or Hong Kong, either that or I’ll have to saddle up for a good private school.

I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about the state of education in the US today.  It may be a slightly skewed point of view, but I support it and think its necessary to get some of the points across, i.e. something needs to change.  Even Bill Gates comes out to say, “We cannot sustain an economy based on innovation unless we have citizens well-educated in math, science, and engineering.”  I’m sure other innovators/billionaires would agree as well.


One Response to Waiting for ‘Superman’ (2010)

  1. allie says:

    hey shen (i stumbled on your website somehow at sometime… it probably involved mild stalking, sorry bout that) and i just want to write that i did see this movie and i do agree that the education system in the US is faulty and not really all that successful. i think they gave teachers’ unions too much of the blame (but this is coming from a teacher with not too much class experience and absolutely no union experience or exposure). i haven’t studied up on this at all, but i honestly can’t believe a significant percentage of teachers come to school and read all through their classes.

    i want to say i do agree that to a certain degree teachers need to be accountable for their students’ learning, but students have to be accountable for their learning, too, and even more so their parents need to be. i think students in elementary-middle-high school are too young to really appreciate an education and need their parents’ support and encouragement, just like teachers need parent involvement. if a student doesn’t ever pay attention for the 40 minutes of that teacher’s class… what can that teacher do, really.

    the unequal economic factors i think are the saddest part of our system. somehow we need to make funding and support more uniform, but we can’t expect parents with more money not to try to spend some of it on their children’s education. can you expect them to just enroll in private schools then? would those then steal all the good teachers? it’s just really sad and there’s no clear answer.

    anyway, glad you saw it and wrote about it and sorry about getting on my high horse.
    looking forward to more posts — take care : )

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