By RICHARD SWIER
Yesterday I went to see the documentary Waiting for Superman by Academy Award winning director Davis Guggenheim. Davis took me on a ride into the reality of our failed public school system. Davis put faces on the failures produced by our public schools.
I have long supported public education but not public schools.
Many believe that public schools fail because of the quality of the students coming to that school - poor students from broken homes mean poor schools. Davis turns this idea on its head and states that it is in fact public school "failure factories" that create and perpetuate failed communities.
In the arena of ideas public schools are wanting and the public tragedy of a failed public school is a failed community. This is a paradigm shift.
According to John Anderson of Variety:
"The information presented here is sobering: This country spends more to incarcerate someone for four years than it would cost to educate the same inmate in private school for 12 years (and likely keep him/her out of prison). But the monetary waste caused by poor schools is just one item on the film's agenda: The unfulfilled potential, social disintegration and generational failure -- perpetuated by the hamster-wheel logic of the nation's entrenched school bureaucracies -- are mourned throughout. And it's the arrogance of so-called educators that comes under Guggenheim's withering moral/intellectual assault."
Davis takes the teacher's unions to task for not wanting real reform but rather defending at all cost the status quo. Davis shows that time and again it is keeping the good teacher and getting rid of the bad teacher that is the solution.
I invited all of the School Board members and the Superintendent of the Sarasota County School District to come with me to see this documentary. I offered to pay for their tickets and have coffee with them afterwards to discuss the documentary. Not a one took me up on this offer.
I hope every parent, grandparent, teacher, administrator, school board member and taxpayer in America goes to see this compelling documentary. You will smile at the hope in the eyes of the parents and children in the documentary. You will be angry with "the system" that defends failure factories. You will cry at the end when you understand that so many of our children and grandchildren are doomed, not because of something they are doing, but something you and I are not doing - holding teachers and administrators accountable.
I cried not only for the children and their parents, I cried for the future of America. As Congressman Vern Buchanan says, "our children are twenty-five percent of our population but one-hundred percent of our future".
After watching Waiting for Superman I believe our future is in great peril.
Richard Swier is an editor at Red County where this article first appeared.