Wasting for Stuporman
Publication Date: 2010-10-27
Just when I vow not to waste one more word on Race to Superman, I come across something very worth reading. This is by Ben Blum-Smith at Research in Practice, Oct. 26, 2010.
and a "change starts with you" message. Text "POSSIBLEĂ˘€ť to such and such a number, weĂ˘€™re told.
[Ohanian Note: That number is 71777, which is weird: Here's what you get: TEXT: COMMAND to 71777 for RINGTONE This is the Official music video for the 2nd single from Pretty Ricky's self titled album.]
I felt like the crazy person from the subway had just shown up on the corner wearing a PIRG t-shirt and holding a clipboard, trying to get me to sign a petition and donate money. And he was totally sure I was going to sign. It was really weird.
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Let me be a little less coy about what I have to say about the content of this film.
Davis Ă˘€" I'm glad you got the draft in on time. YouĂ˘€™re showing a lot of passion, but weĂ˘€™ve got to work on the clarity of your thesis and your evidentiary structure. In the meantime, you need to engage with some key sources of information you left out entirely:
1) Good teaching that is happening inside public schools.
You depict failing public schools, portrayed as the norm, and a handful of highly successful charter schools. This narrative makes successful public schools invisible. Have you never encountered one?
I have. Where I went to school, and where I learned how to teach. Unionized workforce and everything. And some of the best teaching you will see anywhere.
2) Teachers getting better.
ItĂ˘€™s a shame that you left this image out of your narrative because this is the whole secret to successful education.
Where did you think great teachers come from? That they spring fully formed from the head of Zeus? Just about everybody whoĂ˘€™s an accomplished teacher used to be an ineffective teacher, and as the maker of a documentary about first year teachers, IĂ˘€™m totally confused that you donĂ˘€™t seem to understand this. If you want to talk about great teachers, but donĂ˘€™t have anything to say about the conditions under which teachers become great, you are at a different stadium than where the game is happening.
(Hint, by the way: in order to become great, teachers need to make and then learn from their mistakes. What kind of environment fosters making and learning from your mistakes? Fear that you will lose your job over your kidsĂ˘€™ test scores? Or maybe transparent, non-defensive collegiality? Okay, good job on that one, now the followup: what kind of education policies are going to create the environment that fosters growth?)
Conversely Ă˘€" where do you think incompetent burnouts come from? The League of Committedly Useless Humans? Do you think anybody gets up at 5:45 every day and gets in front of kids and wants to suck? I know hundreds of teachers, and I donĂ˘€™t know ONE who is honestly okay with doing a bad job. Be that as it may, teaching is actually very hard, a fact to which you pay lip-service, and that means that in a difficult situation and with an absence of support, it can be a pretty crushing experience. (I will go on record with this: teaching is way, way harder than math. Galois theory is a walk in the park next to figuring out how to alter your planning, presence, discussion facilitation, assessment, etc. to get better results for your kids. No contest.) Lots of folks leave the profession; plenty more stay on board and give up. If you want to decrease the amount of incompetence in front of kids, and you donĂ˘€™t have anything to say about how to support teachers in growing, then again, youĂ˘€™re at the wrong stadium.
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A lot of the above has already been pointed out by others. Let me direct you to one excellent critique among many Ă˘€"
Ben Allen belongs to a category of person I think I pretty much always get along with: heĂ˘€™s a professional mathematician (a complex systems theorist) who spent time (3 years) teaching math in urban public school. So, when he talks about Waiting for Superman, I'm listening.
Ben calls attention to the absurd scene in which what education is Ă˘€śsupposed to beĂ˘€ť is depicted in a cartoon as a teacher opening up studentsĂ˘€™ heads and pouring in a liquid (Ă˘€śknowledgeĂ˘€ť), before this process gets interrupted by public educationĂ˘€™s bureaucratic constraints. IĂ˘€™ll add that I used to use more or less this exact metaphor as a send-up of how people who donĂ˘€™t understand education imagine it works. Learning as some kind of IV drip.
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Okay, I thought I was done but I have one more thing to say.
WhatĂ˘€™s with the creepy appropriation of civil rights language?
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