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The true bias in “Waiting for Superman”

Have you seen “Waiting for Superman“?  It’s on Netflix right now, so I watched it last night.  The film has been criticized as being biased against teacher unions and accused of pushing a charter school agenda.

In case you are new to Teaching My Baby to Read, let me tell you my ten second bio: I’m a Stanford graduate and former charter school teacher.  I am on record as being strongly in favor of charter schools.  But that doesn’t mean I’m joining the chorus saying that “Waiting for Superman” is the best educational documentary ever.  In fact, I have a huge problem with it.

I feel that “Waiting for Superman” ignores the key role parents play in educating their children.

I’m not talking about Homeschooling; I’m talking about Afterschooling.

The closing scenes of the documentary show parents in tears when their children do not get chosen for charter school lotteries.  It is implied that their children are doomed to crummy public schools and low quality education.

It’s all the teachers’ fault.  It’s all the school districts’ fault.  It’s all the union’s fault.  It’s everyone’s responsibility but the parents!

I’ve taught at a low performing school and a high performing school.  The low performing school could have been the poster child for “Waiting for Superman”.  So I really get what the filmakers were trying to say.  I just wish they had chosen to spend fifteen minutes giving parents direction about what they could do at home to help encourage their children’s educations.

Massive parental involvement could be the key to solving all of our problems with public education in America.

Education begets education.  But you don’t have to have a fancy college degrees to make a difference.  All you need is a library card, and little direction.  

A really great place for parents to start, would be to read Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers.

(Here’s the link to Amazon, but this book is most likely available at your local library.)

What’s important about Outliers is it shows how highly educated parents really “get in their kids’ business”.  There’s constant dialogue.  There’s constant attention and feedback.  There’s relatively little unsupervised play.  (Okay, maybe that part is bad.)   

Upper-middle class kids are groomed for college almost every day of their lives.  That’s happening at home, as well as at school.

Let’s teach all parents how to do that too.

If we can empower parents, we can change schools.  I really believe that!


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