Recent Films on Education. Call to Action or Just Another film?

Scene from Davis Guggheim's "Waiting for Superman"

There are several films recently released that document the plight of the American public education system that focus on the achievement gap between the haves and the have nots, the era of the tests, soaring high school dropout rates, our fast track to establish charter schools and the seemingly end to free public schools as we know it.  The four films are Waiting for SupermanThe LotteryThe Cartel, and Race To Nowhere.

Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at American Enterprise Institute, was quoted in an Education Week article about the film, “Waiting for Superman, stating that:

“I think it’s naive to imagine a single movie or book is going to change permanently what the public is concerned about or how it thinks about an issue,” Hess said. “People are busy. They have jobs and kids. They are supposed to be worried about national security and highway safety and Internet stalkers and any number of things. Even if they walk out of the movie fired up, there’s lots of other causes and demands.”

Any lasting effects of Waiting For Superman or the other films will be determined by the success of the engagement activities connected to each of them. “What happens next is what matters,” he said. “Is there a strategy to linking those people into the issue in an ongoing way?”

Hess’ statement is incorrect in that “no single movie or book is going to change permanently what the public is concerned about…” One person’s determination to stand up and make a difference is like a pebble being tossed into a pond; the ripples of the impact of that pebble into water expand sideways, downward, back up and down again. Envision the figure eight crossed twice encased in a spiral that expands.

There is a rising and growing chorus across our country (and in other countries) on the plight of education.

What is happening in America is a realization that we are unable to compete with the rest of the world. Our once much sought after education system now ranks number 25 with the rest of developed countries. Equally alarming is that we are beginning to loose our best and brightest educators from some of our most prestigious institutions of learning to other countries who not only outrank us in providing a better education, but also outspend us when it comes to funding research, science and math in institutions of higher learning.

It is also important to note here that providing a well-rounded quality education will produce leaders who are instilled with a deep sense of humanity, justice and service. Along with the rise in poor results of a broken education system, we are experiencing a rise in candidates who do not fit that model.

Currently, we have candidates seeking to become members of the United States Congress speaking nonsensically about a new breed of mice with human brains, or settling debates on the floor of Congress by exercising our second amendment rights or the use of steel-toed shoes, leaving us with visions of the Senate being turned into the “O.K. Corral.” Too many candidates running for national public office display a lack humanity and integrity as they openly and knowingly lie in order to win the office they seek.

The four films mentioned above are a result of a growing number of organizations and advocacy groups who seek change that started from one educator, one parent, one elected official, one clergy member, one business owner, one entertainer, one athlete, one author, one artist and more who refused to settle for the status quo. The films are not the beginning. The film-makers have simply turned up the volume and taken the message to the airways. They also serve to unite the growing number of efforts to make a change by simply making us aware of each other.

As to what will happen after the final credits roll down the screen, action is already being taken before the films reach a broader audience. The $100 million dollar pledge to Newark NJ by FaceBook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. the $6 million dollar donation from Oprah Winfree to underfunded Charter schools. Already in progress (and some for years) are a host of foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that has done and continue to do an incredible job across our country.

In addition, there are priceless stories being realized through the ceaseless action of parents, teachers, unions, students, and entire communities coming together to change the horrific course of our education system. Their stories going unseen by the masses but their accumulative impact is paving the way for a true renaissance in the education process of our country.

I am Superman. I am Superwoman. I am the change I wish to see.

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Facebook CEO Gave $100 Million to Boost Education in Newark

VIPs drop in on HISD dropouts: On 7th annual walk, volunteers persuade 75 to go back to school

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