It's Complicated, Mr. Guggenheim; Lesley Off Base
Publication Date: 2010-11-08
This is from Schools Matter, Nov. 6, 2010.
It is complicated, Davis, and your simplistic film doesn't even begin to get at some of the very serious issues facing our schools, students, teachers, and families.
This Week in Education's John Thompson left this thoughtful reply in the comments section (this is only a snippet):
Well said, John. Too bad Davis will dismiss you as a ditherer. Dither on, my friend.
Meanwhile, the producer of the film (Lesley Chilcott) thinks our big problem is that there's a teacher branding problem:
[Two paragraphs then offer typical chatter about the need to "professionalize" teaching and the usual lip-service about the importance of the work]
Organizations like Teach for America are starting to make teaching competitive among college graduates, helping to brand teaching as a distinguished career choice. But this is only one path. There need to be many, many others.
Two years does not a career make, Lesley. And if you think teaching has a branding problem, what, exactly, in your film attempts to uplift the profession? Nothing -- and, in fact, you do harm to the profession (even though you pay lip-service to it) by advocating for the expansion of charters and evaluating teachers based primarily on test scores. Keep in mind, Lesley, that teachers in charters are generally paid less, have less job security, and, surprise surprise, there is much higher turnover in these privatized versions of public schools.
I'm not sure which blog posting is more concerning: the film maker's complaints over ditherers making things complicated, or the former commercial producer lamenting the teacher branding problem. Guggenheim seems content to do first, ask questions later (or don't ask them - just "do"); Chilcott seems to think the teaching profession needs a cosmetic makeover. Neither, of course, is a good way to promote sound public policy. But it might be catching and entertaining, just like their schlockumentary, but there's a serious lack of substance here.
Apologies -- I think I'm dithering. Time for me to do something. Maybe I'll get started on rebranding the teaching profession. That'd satisfy the desires of both the producer and director - but, of course, is unlikely to really improve public education in any meaningful way.
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