The much ballyhooed movie that attempts to tackle the failure of public education is now playing in Memphis at the Ridgeway. Yesterday I saw it and agree with critics that it is on point and should be seen by everyone who cares about the direction of the country.
For conservatives, it probably just reaffirms what most have felt about the system for the past few decades: that it is an endless money pit in which we keep tossing dollars without any better results achieved. Over the years students and the schools seem to get worse.
The movie makes it’s points through the eyes of five families who are trying to get in the few successful schools in their areas. Parents go to great lengths against big odds to try to secure a place at the better schools which are the more independent, inventive KIPP, charter and optional schools. For most of them it remains a dream.
Educators talk about the bureaucracy and teachers unions that strangle their efforts. Pupils willing to apply themselves grapple with the reality that they’re not going to get any help. Presidents continue to sign legislation aimed at fixing the problem, but each seems to fail.
The filmmaker couldn’t do without a gratuitous shot at Reagan for his remark that maybe the Education Department should be abolished and at Bush for a slip of the tongue when he said our childrens instead of children. Barack Obama doesn’t get much play; curious (or maybe not), the filmmaker didn’t mention Obama’s choosing a private school for his daughters while ending the successful voucher program in D.C. for underprivileged students. And since the movie came out, the superintendent of D.C. schools, Michelle Rhee, has left the program when her sponsor, the mayor, lost his seat in the recent primary. New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie offered her a post in his state.
The take away message for me in the movie is we have ceded too much power to the federal government. The schools that succeed are outside their purview. Politicians have depended so much on the support of teachers unions that the education part doesn’t matter. When students fail the government simply moves the metric – down. There is no desire among them to change the system and the system is killing progress. Citizens become enslaved to government when it ought to be that government works to please the people.
Unless some drastic change takes place in education, it looks like we are stuck with an increasingly bad status quo.
And if you like that, the health care system looks like it will follow the same downward slope as education unless Obamacare is repealed. Just substitute health care for schools in the movie for a frightening glimpse of all of our futures.