Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Waiting for SUPERMAN: A Participant Media GuideWaiting for SUPERMAN: A Participant Media Guide by Participant Media

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Don't bother reading this. It's not so much that it's a bad book; it's just that it's nothing I didn't already know. The book talks about, basically, that money is not the solution to education; good teachers are the solution. It also talks about how kids that are from disadvantaged areas need a longer school day to catch up, but, as an educator friend of mine pointed out, the book didn't discuss how the teachers were paid, etc. for the extra time this required of them.

I don't know any teachers who don't work hard and who don't want their students to learn, but at the same time, I don't think it's an altruistic field. Teachers need to be rewarded for their work, and I really have to ask of the schools in the book that are open Saturdays, etc., what's in it for the teachers? I've had to work Saturdays, and I don't get paid any extra for it, and it's no fun at all, and I'm not even dealing with 30 children.

The book is presented as almost a series of editorials, and one states that in low-income communities, once you get the kids learning and showing results, then the parents get on board. That makes no sense to me. I don't understand, and never have understood, why low-income neighborhoods don't have a culture of learning. I don't understand why it's uncool. When I was in high school, my friends and I never said to each other, come hang out on the streets instead of doing your homework. That wouldn’t have even crossed our minds. Homework was something to be done. It wasn't always fun, and it wasn't always what we wanted to do, but we know, even in our "advantaged" neighborhood that not graduating from high school, and not going to college was not going to get us closer to a life in which we could do what we wanted.

And maybe kids in low income neighborhoods don't even know what choices are out there, or what they could do if they had the opportunities. And I understand that parents in these situations might be more worried about feeding their kids than whether or not they know algebra, and that many times the parents also don't know what options are available to them.

Also, nowhere in the book is an actual teacher included. Many of the writers had been teachers, and moved on to administration, or had other experiences with school systems, but perhaps asking an actual teacher what their struggles were might have provided a balanced perspective.

The book also talks a lot about the need for good teachers, how to improve middle-of-the-road teachers, and how to remove poor teachers. Many writers in the book suggest that there are ways to make education more equal and comparable across the country, but I'm not so sure that's really possible. I think the country is so vast, with so many different cultural attitudes, that making education the same everywhere is not likely possible.

I'm not trying to sound dismal about the state of education in the country, but I think that there's not just one problem and not just one solution. I think there's too much of a blame game going on, and maybe rather than spending so much time analyzing what's not working, it's time to just try something, anything, new and see if that helps. If it doesn't something else can always be tried, or we can just go back to the old way of doing things. I still plan on watching the movie, because I'm curious, but I think that if you want to change education, you're better off spending your time doing something than reading this book.

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