what I know for sure after watching Waiting for Superman

Finally last night I sat down to watch Waiting for Superman. I’d been wanting to see the documentary – I had also been dreading it. Whatever it was going to say about our schools… it wasn’t going to be pretty.

I cried, cried, and cried at the end.  However we want to feel about the documentary and its message (especially about controversial topics like teachers’ union and controversial people like Michelle Rhee), there are two things I know for sure after watching it.

1. The system by which we get students into charter schools… it’s a symptom of something really terrible taking place in our country.  The LOTTERY!?!?!  No one can watch the scenes depicting families wringing their hands at a school lottery without a gut-wrenching feeling that we’re inflicting pain on our children.  It’s cruel. These children and their parents are desperate to get into a decent school, because they know that staying at their current public school will significantly reduce their chance at success for various reasons. When I see an 8-year-old child sitting nervously through the lottery and then crying into her mom’s arms because she didn’t get into a school… I KNOW FOR SURE something is wrong with us.

2. I am a community college professor.  We don’t have tenure at our college.  We sign a new contract every 3 years, and we are evaluated every year based on our teaching, our student evaluations, and our contribution to the college.  I don’t believe in tenure. I just don’t get it.  What kind of job is ever guaranteed to a person disregarding evaluation of performance?  How logical is it to say that someone has the RIGHT to their job?  I like what Michelle Rhee said in the documentary: A teacher must prove him/herself to be effective to have the “privilege” of teaching our children.  I understand the reasons for which teachers’ union started in the first place, and I even understand that research university professors may need protection for academic freedom.  BUT then I also understand that everyone who works any job requires minimum protection from wrongful termination or discrimination. What makes teachers so special?  If anything, I am inclined to believe, we should be held to even higher standards.

My son is only 3 years old.  We live in a school district that is one of the top in the nation.  But I’m nervous. Really nervous about my son’s education.


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