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Recently I saw the documentary Waiting For Superman.  I went in with almost no expectations, and came out wondering whether I had just donated $10 to spread right wing propaganda in the guise of liberal pablum.  

I am interested in other peoples' impressions of the movie, and until I can be convinced otherwise, I hope to discourage others from forking over the money to see it.

So, beneath the fold we will examine what could be wrong with a documentary about lovable poor minority kids being let down by the school system.

As I mentioned, Waiting For Superman tugs on your heartstrings by following these lovable kids and families who are stuck in "failing schools" and stake their futures on the lotteries which allow kids into charter schools.

The movie attempts to examine what is wrong with American schools, especially those that serve less advantaged communities.  We are told very early on that the problem is not funding, or inequitable funding, because the per pupil expenditure has nearly doubled in 30 years, but test scores have remained the same.  

So what is the problem then?  Waiting For Superman places the blame almost entirely on - wait for it:  Unions!

That's right, if it wasn't for the big bad teachers' unions, there would be better contracts where bad teachers could be fired and good and "innovative" teachers could have pay based on merit.  The movie even says we could pay the "good" ones 6 figure salaries! (there is, of course, no discussion of how to do that if we've already decided that more money for schools isn't the solution)

"Yay!" we are all supposed to think.  There's the answer!  Then we are shown all of these gleaming charter schools where all of the great education happens and we have all of these wonderful outcomes.  

There are some stats and anecdotes presented that paint charter schools as utopias.  There are no discussions of the possible systematic biases in these determinations, such as these schools are already selecting for a very non-representative subset of students and parents who are willing to spend entire days attending lotteries to get their 7 year old on the right track.  

Another huge beef I have is this notion that you can evaluate teacher performance based on constant standardized tests, and that you should be firing the "bad" ones.  The movie even claims something like "just by getting rid of the bottom 10% we could make a huge difference."  It's like Lake Wobegon, where everyone is somehow going to be above average.  By definition, some people, in any population, with a distribution of any criterion, are going have to be below the average (in fact roughly half of them will be).  Do we get rid of the bottom 10% every year?  Have they done the math on that?  Who will be attracted to teaching when the profession is void of its one remaining calling card, that of reasonable job security?  Under such a system, wouldn't teachers fight tooth and nail to be placed in the wealthiest schools with the whitest kids, so they can get the highest test scores?  

The movie has nothing to say about these crucial issues.  It's just those big bad unions.

Finally, there are some ridiculous inconsistencies.  In one line, the narrator bemoans how bad US schools do compared to all of the high performing European and Asian countries.  "38th in the world in science" and that kind of thing.  We are shown pictures of kids in some Asian country somewhere doing military style exercises and studying hard.  In the very next breath, the narrator cries about how a certain public school somewhere is 'tracking' kids into a college path and a non-college path, and how horrible that is.  There is no blush at the hypocrisy, even though tracking is an essential part of all of these high performing European and Asian systems that the narrator just busted a nutt over.

In the end, I don't understand what Davis Guggenheim, who also directed An Inconvenient Truth, could have been trying to accomplish with this movie, other than spreading some right wing memes or boosting his "political independent" cred for some unknown reason.  Because when I see a movie about inner city schools that states straight out that funding and inequality are not the problem, and then spends two hours solely bashing teachers' unions and fellating charter schools and constant standardized testing, I have to wonder what is going on.

Whether Waiting for Superman was intended to plant right wing memes, it is, at best, an extraordinarily flaccid attempt to explain the problems in American education.

Originally posted to the wonderful world of reality on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:15 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's union/teacher bashing drivel. (32+ / 0-)

    If teaching is such an easy/great job why do 50% leave in the first five years?

    This film pisses me off. I was a teacher, and I'm married to a teacher. It's pure propaganda.

    You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

    by FrankCornish on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:19:53 PM PDT

  •  a diary from Saturday (15+ / 0-)

    here

    warning - it has over 900 comments

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:21:06 PM PDT

  •  I would have been a lot more impressed with this (18+ / 0-)

    movie if they had bothered to find some public schools that are not failing. Many public schools in this country are fantastic.

    "Don't knock football...it's just like chess but without the dice" - john07801

    by voracious on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:21:53 PM PDT

  •  I Almost Bittorented It (8+ / 0-)

    cause I don't want to pay for it. I got some issues with both teachers and unions in this instance. But I come from a family of folks with PhDs. We could have all gone anyplace we wanted, but we're kind of fans of public schools.

    People here that know more about the issue then myself, although often to polite to be this blunt, agree with you. It is a flat out attack on public schools. No ifs ands or buts.

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

    by webranding on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:22:22 PM PDT

  •  Sadly, no... (14+ / 0-)

    There are plenty on the left who seem to feel the same way. Everyone wants an easy solution, when the only real solution is the same one it always was:

    1. Pay enough to attract and retain good teachers.
    1. Lower class sizes.

    Everything else is wishful thinking.

    "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

    by davewill on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:26:15 PM PDT

    •  Gotta agree (6+ / 0-)

      If I remember correctly, its made by one of the folks behind "Inconvenient Truth."  Waiting for superman is filled with slanted bullshit and a great deal of untruth, but I think it would be wrong to equate the producer with being a right-wing shill.  Rather, my guess is that the producer just got suckered by RW talking points.

      "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

      by Empty Vessel on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:31:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I mention Inconvenient Truth in the diary (5+ / 0-)

        There is being taken in by RW talking points, and then being taken in by RW talking points, to the point where you spend years making a movie to promulgate them.  Something is not right here.

        •  and assuming a producer is out to promote (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Daddy Bartholomew, JanL, fizziks

          truth instead of making money is a dangerous assumption.  many people (producers included) will sell their own grandmother if the price is right.

          MOVE'EM UP! ROLL'EM OUT... MOVE'EM UP RAWHIDE!!! meeeoooow! mrraaarrr!! meeeOOOOOW!

          by edrie on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:34:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  My guess is that the producer (6+ / 0-)

          genuinely believes the crap he is spreading.  He's wrong, but we got plenty of idiots on the left and middle in this country.

          "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

          by Empty Vessel on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:35:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In one of his interviews (5+ / 0-)

            he talks about how public schools are important to him and how he's saddened that he's chosen to send his kids to private school. The reason he cites is low test scores at the neighborhood school.

            I have not gotten the impression that he ever walked inside the neighborhood school or had any first or second hand experience with it before he dismissed it.

            As an ordinary parent, well, you do what feels best for your kids, and I have no problem with that. I also have no problem with him sending his kids to private school.

            Still, if I were a journalist doing a movie on education, first thing I'd do is use it as an excuse to check out my local public school. Just because it gets a low score on average does not mean that his kids would get a low score or that his kids would not thrive there. (And conversely, the same is true if the average was high.)

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:52:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  At The End Of West Wing (3+ / 0-)

              there is a show where the newly elected President and his wife look at schools for their children. All these prep schools in DC. Private of course.

              As I mentioned in another comment my parents could have sent me anywhere. They liked I'd go to a public school. It wasn't perfect. But maybe I'd run into folks that were not like myself not wearing a uniform. I did, and those were my friends.

              It is nothing I'd ever change about my life.

              "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

              by webranding on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:28:23 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I'm forced to believe that he believes it. (4+ / 0-)

          Our current Sec of Ed, appointed by our Democratic president believes it.

          "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

          by davewill on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:36:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I would add (7+ / 0-)
      1.  Give teachers a say in what goes on in their classrooms.

      At this point, curriculum is being handed to teachers complete with scripts.  What best-and-the-brightest person wants a job like that?

    •  There are plenty of nuances beyond these... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daddy Bartholomew, fizziks, davewill

      ...but without 1 & 2, we will make no substantial difference.

      I do, however, think that No. 3 should be improving weak teachers and No. 4 should be getting rid of bad teachers. How we do both, and how we judge both, will have to be done carefully. But, both my mother and stepfather were teachers (vocational ed when that was included in every high school) and my wife was a teacher (20 years) and now is an administrator of teachers (14 years). There ARE weak teachers; there are bad teachers. They are definitely part of the problem.

      Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:55:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The problem is... (4+ / 0-)

        that when we try addressing those issues without addressing the ones I mentioned first, it just starts another round of scapegoating. Also, some of those "weak" teachers might look a lot stronger if they didn't have monster class sizes and no support.

        "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

        by davewill on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:37:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree. I think #1 and #2 must... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Daddy Bartholomew, Unduna, Naniboujou

          ...come first. But we also need to recognize that some teachers are weak. All school districts should have programs in place that work to strengthen them. They also need to get rid of those who fail to get stronger or refuse to do so. In some places, that really is a very difficult thing to accomplish.

          Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:53:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Regular evaluations are critical (0+ / 0-)

        Every teacher should get a rigorous evaluation by someone with expertise that talks about the good and the bad, and gives support to improve. Every teacher deserves to hear what they did right and every teacher has something they can improve.

        Test scores should be part of the conversation, as a lever to understand what is going on in a classroom.

        In some districts, in some states, it is too hard to fire teachers. Principals and administrators need to document and need to go through due process, but if that documentation is done - and the principal was willing to make that much investment into removing the teacher - and there's no prohibited reason involved or complete failure of facts - then the appeals board should side with the administrator and school board. If your principal hates you enough to accumulate an inch-thick file, then it's time (for one of you) to move on.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 10:43:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Los Angeles is the worst (0+ / 0-)

          although I have to place most of the blame on the school district themselves. They won't do proper evaluations and grant tenure in practically an automatic fashion after just two years. The administration then bounces bad teachers around the system rather than take action, so that when they finally DO take action, it's against a tenured, veteran teacher who is, by that point, hard to fire.

          "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

          by davewill on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 10:04:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  To answer your question, no. (11+ / 0-)

    It's blatant right-wing propaganda. About as stealthy as a kick to the nads.

  •  no WONDER meg whitman is (6+ / 0-)

    touting this film in her attempt to buy the california governorship.

    soon as i heard her talking about it, i knew it was a fauxdoc.

    she is one of the biggest hypocrites on the block and when SHE uses something to further her agenda, immediately the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

    thanks for verifying what i already suspected!

    MOVE'EM UP! ROLL'EM OUT... MOVE'EM UP RAWHIDE!!! meeeoooow! mrraaarrr!! meeeOOOOOW!

    by edrie on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:33:06 PM PDT

  •  Oh, please. (5+ / 0-)

    You want to have issues with how the movie treats unions, fine (I wasn't in love with that part myself). But that doesn't make it right-wing propaganda, which is really a ridiculous accusation.

    There are plenty of people out there (myself included) looking for a better way to educate our children in the public schools without sacrificing their future on the altar of political infighting over teacher's rights, standardized test scores as a measure of educational success (tests measure information, and -- more than anything -- how good a student is at taking tests), and curricular correctness.

    I felt that the movie made some important, salient points. I did not view it as right-wing propaganda at all.

    "We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it." -- Willy Wonka

    by Huginn and Muninn on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:33:12 PM PDT

  •  This Is Such A Hard Topic For Me (3+ / 0-)

    I lived for 15 years on Capital Hill in DC. Nobody, nobody I know would have sent their children to a public school in DC. As a product of really good public schools/universities this pains me.

    The scene in Waiting for Superman as ping pong balls come up, parents hoping for a good education for their children at a Charter School. I am about to cry just typing that sentence.

    But we can fix this. I mentioned in another comment my town voted 57% for McCain and on the same ballot 63% to raise our property taxes. Funny thing is, with that increase, we are still the lowest in the county and also the best schools.

    So it is possible to educate and not spend millions per student. I just don't know how that is done. And if I did, well I'd be rich.

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

    by webranding on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:41:15 PM PDT

    •  allow me to offer my 2 cents (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, Daddy Bartholomew, blueoasis

      And I say this as not a professional educator, so grain of salt, of course.

      I would say that we should examine what is easy and what is difficult, and what we are doing and not doing at present.  Then reexamine what we should be doing.

      In the end, I don't think it is actually difficult to adequately educate a child from a middle class and up background.  That shouldn't take an excess of resources or an especially skilled teacher.

      What does take lots of resources is either:

      1. A stellar education for a middle class and up child

      or

      1. An adequate education for a disadvantaged child.

      We clearly need to do #2, or we are stuck with massive inequality and social problems.  The problem is that we, as a society, whether we know it or not, are demanding both #1 and #2.  

      And this is where tracking comes in.  All of the high performing European and Asian systems that everybody loves track students to an incredible degree.

      We simply do not have the resources to do both #1 and #2 above.  Every other advanced country in the world has solved this problem by sacrificing #2.  They track people as early as elementary school (I'm not necessarily advocating for that extreme) and then provide outstanding high school educations to the segment that is university bound and headed for professional jobs where it is needed, and very good trade school educations to the others.  

      The result is that those countries produce both high achievers to fill their professions, and social equality.  Here in the US, we misalocate resources so that schools in rich areas have planetariums and weight rooms, while schools in poor areas don't even have heat.

      •  fuck wish I could edit (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Daddy Bartholomew, davewill

        I mean to say that Every other advanced country in the world has solved this problem by sacrificing #1.

      •  Not Every Kid Is Going To Be A Rocket (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Daddy Bartholomew, Catesby, blueoasis

        scientist. But we can teach them the basics. And then move them to a profession. Like in the old days. Now before somebody bitches at me, my plumber and electrician make a lot of money. My next door neighbor, a union carpenter makes a ton of money.

        Those are not bad jobs. That is how this nation and our education system used to work, and I don't see why it can't work that way again.

        "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

        by webranding on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:05:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think we agree (3+ / 0-)

          what I am saying is that we need plumbers and electricians, those are great jobs, but they shouldn't have to go to college to get those jobs, and it is not a failure of the education system if they don't go to college.

          •  Think I Miss Understood (4+ / 0-)

            we are in complete agreement. No need to go to college to get a job like that. I'd like a parallel path for them in high school. Sure they need math, science, all that. But these folks knew they were going into these professions long before I knew I'd be a high tech marketing executive and went to college and grad school.

            Give them the tools. Basic accounting. Other things they need to run their business.

            "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

            by webranding on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:15:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  exactly (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Daddy Bartholomew, blueoasis

              once we realize that not everyone needs to go to college, and its not a failure if they don't, then we can concentrate the resources needed on:

              1. closing the gap for disadvantaged students
              1. providing a world class education to the university bound - on the level of Britain and Europe where the university bound learn in high school what we in the US learn in college
            •  Whatever happened to apprenticeship? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              fizziks

              As I said above, I left a London school at age 16 in 1978.  I got an apprenticeship at a printer after that, and managed to convert that into a position as the advertising head for a major French cosmetics/perfumer in New York.  Sorry - you didn't need really college and grad school for that position either :)  At the age of 21 I got to hire a Marketing grad as my assistant!

              But it just shows how companies have completely abandoned their responsibility for training newcomers into their field.

      •  I went to school in London (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling, Brainy Smurf

        a public school as you would call it here.  It was actually a bona fide socialist school.

        What concerns me is the number of people on this site who are of the opinion that students in the US who only completed high school do not have passable reading and comprehension skills.  I read such opinions here all the time.

        Now I would consider my reading, grammar and comprehension to be above the average level that I have seen here is this country (including those with a degree), but I also obtained passable French, German and Latin.  To say nothing of World History, Physics, Classical Music etc., etc.

        But the funny thing is, I left school at 16!  So it leaves me scratching my head why so many kids here in the US are not deemed to have advanced reading skills by the age of 18.  It leaves me wondering what exactly goes on in schools here.

        It can't be poverty or multiple languages or immigration woes.  My school drew students from some of the worst areas in London, and we had students from all over the world.  In my home room class we had two kids from India, two from Pakistan, one from Iran and my best friend, from Singapore.

        The biggest difference between what we had at my school, and what goes on here is what you call tracking, and we called more specifically streaming.

        There were two standardized exams at age 16, each of different levels, and one further exam at age 18.  But you could only study for the later exam if you had received a passing grade in the exams you took at age 16.  You got one exam in each subject that you took.  There was no 'graduation'.  You took your grades in each exam on each subject to your future employer or university.

        So we were streamed at age 13 in many subjects into 3 classes.  Every quarter we had to take an exam to see if we moved up a stream, down a stream, or stayed where we were.  By the time you hit 16, which exam you took - the CSE, or the more advanced 'O' Level was based on where you ended up in the stream.

        With the exception of Social Studies and English Language, we were also able to choose our classes at age 13 to suit our aptitude.  I never took mathematics after age 13 as I found the math in my Physics class to be more advanced and more interesting.  Some kids went heavily into science, some into trade crafts.  And just because you did well and were in the top stream in one class had no bearing on your position in another class.  For example, I was top streamed in all my classes except for German.  I only started learning German at age 13, so there's no way I could have been in a class with kids who had years with it without holding them back.

        My high school did stop streaming after I left, wanting more so-called 'equality' but abandoned it after about a decade because it just doesn't work.  But we have not abandoned it here.  

        Here the kids who are good at a subject are stuck in a class with kids with no interest.  The kids who are good at it get held back, while the kids who have a problem with it don't get the special attention they need.  It's a stupid idea, and I have no idea why it continues.  

        I know for myself, it was only the potential shame of dropping back a class that kept my nose to the books.  That is what the real world is like, and I do not think that coddling kids and telling them they're all winners and all above average does them any favors.

        Sorry for the rant.

        •  thank you (0+ / 0-)

          I couldn't agree more.  

          My colleagues in the UK do undergrad in three years and get their PhD in three.  This is only possible because by age 16 they have taken the same level classes that we do at age 18 here, then they specialize by subject and they graduate high school at the level of a comparable American who has had 2-3 years of college.  

          And this is only possible because of tracking.

    •  No, you wouldn't be rich. You'd be under attack (3+ / 0-)

      by Wall Street, and all the people who are being seduced by the current corporate-driven push to privatize education and make it into a profit-driven business.

      http://blogs.alternet.org/...

      http://www.nytimes.com/...

      The last thing these evil bloodsuckers are concerned with are the children of this country and the quality of their schools.

      We don't need a third party. We need a second party.

      by obiterdictum on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:59:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And you'd be under attack by Arne Duncan and (0+ / 0-)

        his boss, Barack Obama. Forgot to mention them in the above list of evil bloodsuckers.

        You can, if you insist, put Obama and Duncan in the category of the people who are being seduced by the hedge-funders' barrage of skillfully done tear-jerking propaganda, but I don't believe that for one red hot minute.

        We don't need a third party. We need a second party.

        by obiterdictum on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:02:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Why yes, yes it is (7+ / 0-)

    You are witnessing the hedge fund/big money types moving in on the stream of tax money from the local, state, and federal level to provide a "better" school for neighborhoods that are burdened by poverty, hunger, crime, and institutional racism and class-ism. They are being assisted by big media and big names such as John Legend and Oprah Winfrey in getting the word out, as well as President Obama and Sec. of Education Arne Duncan - note that none of them are teachers.
    There is no quick or easy fix for the mess these children face - I should know, I work in one of "those" schools. If there were a quick and easy fix, as implied in the movie, well - it already would have been done.
    The data and the truth collide in this movie but just guess who comes out worse than before?
    ...
    Poor kids of any color or gender are going to get the business (literally) end of a rather ugly set of "guidelines", none of which will help them reach the goals that any free society would have for those that are plagued by the worst of life circumstances.
    Diane Ravitch, a noted Bush-era educator and one of the original founders in the "accountability" movement has excoriated the movie. (See Teacherken's many diaries.) There will be many more, and teachers in general are pretty appalled. If only it were so easy!
    Therefore, in answer to your question, it is a major hit-piece on schools that suffer from lack of funding, crumbling buildings, large class sizes, lack of technology, and lack of interest except when one can make a big splash for publicity's sake.
    But don't get me started.  ;)

    Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

    by JanL on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:41:53 PM PDT

    •  I haven't found any evidence of finance (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      citizen k, Huginn and Muninn

      bigwigs getting in on charters etal.  They've got much bigger fish to fry.

      •  Here's some (5+ / 0-)

        http://www.dailykos.com/...

        There's a lot of money to be made in charter schools, and I'm not talking just about the for-profit management companies that run a lot of these charter schools.

        It turns out that at the tail end of the Clinton administration in 2000, Congress passed a new kind of tax credit called a New Markets tax credit. What this allows is it gives enormous federal tax credit to banks and equity funds that invest in community projects in underserved communities and it's been used heavily now for the last several years for charter schools. I have focused on Albany, New York, which in New York state, is the district with the highest percentage of children in charter schools, twenty percent of the schoolchildren in Albany attend are now attending charter schools. I discovered that quite a few of the charter schools there have been built using these New Markets tax credits.

        What happens is the investors who put up the money to build charter schools get to basically or virtually double their money in seven years through a thirty-nine percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that they're lending, so they're also collecting interest on the loans as well as getting the thirty-nine percent tax credit. They piggy-back the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits like historic preservation or job creation or brownfields credits.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:55:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The list of NMTC investors are available (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          citizen k

          via the Treasury, and I didn't see any hedge funds or large banks.

          The projects aren't huge, so require due diligence and opportunity, and accordingly probably don't have a lot of bang for the leveraged buck.  On top of that, the credits are "AMT preference items," meaning that if one is in AMT (and probably most hedge fund investors are) they don't get the benefit of the credit.

          •  They get in on the real estate side of things (4+ / 0-)

            through "venture philanthropy." Ken Saltman has written about this, as have others.

            Change. Such a small word Full of grace, it comes alive As one embraces hope. The Radical Imagination: Dreaming of the future as it might yet be.

            by Edubabbler on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:12:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Oh please (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Daddy Bartholomew, fizziks, blueoasis

            It is not ONLY hedge fund/bankster types but they are the ones that really grind my gears.
            Are you saying it's a-ok for the Eli Broad Foundation or the Gates Foundation to move in with a million here or there if only schools will follow their dictates?
            I've got papers to grade and some parents to call but seriously, there are big-money types standing by the revenue stream just slobbering to get their talons into the mix. They do not have the best interests of impoverished children at heart.
            Taxpayers are going to get hookwinked if they persist in being naive. These folks will move in, scoop up money that is needed badly, and move out when lo-and-behold, their promised "results" are nowhere to be found.
            To my knowledge, every single one of these big-money groups has the idea that it is very easy to fix big urban districts or rural districts where funding is lacking because poverty is rampant. When the results are sorted, after many millions later, well guess what: no improvement by the data they themselves hold up as the exemplars of "reform".
            To be polite, they can bite my ass.

            Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

            by JanL on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:13:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Actually, on a closer read of the data (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            citizen k

            the largest investors appear to be small community banks.  Makes sense: they're not AMT-affected, the smaller investment levels fit the small bank profile, and they get Community Reinvestment Act credit for the investments.

            So if you wanna bash small community banks, be my guest.

  •  Well, among other things... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paxpdx

    ... the movie demonstrates starkly that good teachers are invaluable.

    That many students and parents are frustrated and discouraged by the options (or lack thereof) available to them.

    That a great education should be available to all, and shouldn't be subject to a roll of the dice (or a lottery ball) -- and that the alternative presented by some charter schools (for example) should be more widely available to all those
    who desire them. (The fact that these lotteries are many times oversubscribed demonstrates that there is clearly demand for the approach they offer.)

    I don't believe, though, that charter schools are the answer (as the movie suggests), but rather a necessary component of an educational system that seeks to meet the needs of all its constituents.

    "We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it." -- Willy Wonka

    by Huginn and Muninn on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 03:47:32 PM PDT

  •  I don't know about the (7+ / 0-)

    right wing part but it's sure as hell propaganda for the by-partisan, privatizing, corporatizing, for profit, No Child's Ass Left Behind, free market, union busting, class warring, people pols, and corporations. they want public education to be like our prisons, health care and any thing lelse they can get there greedy hands on for and by the owners of the place and profitable.        

  •  Kneejerk (6+ / 0-)

    I find this diary and a lot of comments pretty kneejerk reactions. I saw the film last night and I think it made a pretty good case against some of the entrenched systemic failings in public education.  There was a wealth of statistics to back up the findings presented and most of the commenters, (Jonathan Alter for one) are certainly of the liberal persuasion. I teach at University and have taught high schoolers and grade schoolers. The reason so many teachers leave within the first 5 years is that it is a hard job and if you're not good at it, you find out real fast. But I for one think the system that awards tenure to public school teachers after 2 years, adamantly opposes any form of merit pay, and makes it impossible to punish incompetency is beyond ridiculous. We wouldn't accept these conditions in contract negotiations with our trash men, why should we incentivize mediocrity for those who are responsible for our most valuable asset, our children. A bad teacher is poison and a good teacher's work will show in a student for years after that student has moved on. I am a member of three unions but I don't think that we have to automatically defend policies that are short sighted and fly in the face of reason. People we DO have a problem here.

  •  It's not an either/or thing. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, Huginn and Muninn

    First - let me state that I am unabashedly, unambiguously a union supporter, period. I vote union, support unions, don't cross picket lines, and have walked lines with striking workers. I'm NOT anti-union. I also invariably vote to tax myself more for schools at any opportunity.

    I went to see the movie with a few folks, including the Kid, and also including a close friend who is a teacher (CTA/NEA).

    Some of it was factually abysmal - getting rid of the lowest 20% performing teachers (however that is determined) and replacing them with the same number of "average" teachers will suddenly give us Finland's educational system. Kids there grow up trilingual. The curriculum is different, the culture is different - that part just made me roll my eyes. Too trite and simple - did he really think people would believe that?

    (I rolled my eyes often, in fact, where opinions were slung around as facts. That was just the most egregious of the instances.)

    However - of the five of us who went to the film, the one who probably agreed with most of it was - yes - the unionized teacher. He said that he & his colleagues often find themselves trapped between crap like NCLB and union demands that they do or not do certain things. There's a lot of fighting between the union and the administration & state, and the teachers and kids are both often stuck in the middle. He supports the union, but his primary allegiance is to the kids

    I'm really disturbed by the idea of for-profit charters, and I tend to think that the unions are as forceful and indeed dogmatic as they are at times because teachers would be even more screwed otherwise - but writing off "Waiting for Superman" as propaganda and not engaging critically with the individual elements of the arguments on their merits (some elements have more merits than others, definitely) seems just as disingenous.

    I expected my teacher friend to be irritated by the movie, although he's always been very open to discussing controversial topics. I was surprised by the degree to which he agreed with much of it.  

    "I like to go into Marshall Field's in Chicago just to see all the things there are in the world that I do not want." M. Madeleva, C.S.C.

    by paxpdx on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:10:51 PM PDT

    •  When I think back on the movie (0+ / 0-)

      it just seems to me that 95% of it was either jizzing over charter schools, presenting BS arguments like that "get rid of the bottom 10% and be Finland" one, and basing the union with the worst examples of union excess.

      I can appreciate that the union contracts may have to be changed some.  But what were the other arguments that should be engaged with, really?

      •  You're kidding, right? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        edtastic, Huginn and Muninn

        Did you go in with preconceived ideas and expectations? I really tried not to - my pro-union bias is the one I can't completely drop. Oh, and my pro-child bias, too. Throwing away even a single year of a single child's educational life pisses me off to no end.

        First - I don't think the issue can be fully addressed in two hours, no way, no how.

        Second - I don't think that all charter schools are evil or a problem - just the for-profit ones. (My contempt for those starts with for-profit daycare and extends through for-profit so-called "higher education", btw..) There are publicly-funded charter schools that are doing an exceptional job many places; I know of several here in San Jose as well as up in Portland, for example.

        Third - I don't think that "changing the union contracts some" will address all of the issues there, either. Teachers need more autonomy. I also believe that teachers need to be evaluated, but that the evaluations have to take into consideration everything from socioeconomics to the presence of English Language Learner kids, horrible school infrastructure - it can't be test-based, and may not be fully objective. Schools, teachers, unions, and parents may all have to get used to that idea.

        Nobody wants to engage with the idea of school choice. Why do we assume that one size or style of education fits all kids? Why do we accept standardized tests and NCLB at all? For that matter, why do we assume that the concepts of "first grade" and such - age-based academic systems - even make sense?

        Everyone seems to be looking for some simple, "one size fits all" approach to fixing schools, educating kids, etc. - and I don't think there is one. I didn't see anything in WFS that suggested that there was a single answer, only that there were schools that were successful, and that playing lotto with children's lives is just evil.

        (There are successful public schools, too, and I do wish he'd have highlighted more of them, certainly. I'm not uncritical of the film, not at all - but I don't take a kneejerk "it's evil" approach, either.)

        "I like to go into Marshall Field's in Chicago just to see all the things there are in the world that I do not want." M. Madeleva, C.S.C.

        by paxpdx on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:28:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  but this movie was making no statement against (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blueoasis

          standardized testing and NCLB.  If anything, it was advocating for them, at least implicitly.  

          It was certainly not making any statements against age-based academic systems.

          It seems that you support innovative ideas in education, which I do to.  Which is why it boggles me that you think this movie was ok, when it was basically for more standardized testing and more ranking.  Sure, it was long on stating the problems, but it was short on any solutions.  

        •  In my area (0+ / 0-)

          kids can pretty much  enroll in any school that has room, and in this area that would cover three districts. Parents must still be able to get the kids to school, but sometimes Grandma is conveniently located, etc. There are also several locally grown charter schools as options. I think this kind of choice has been very healthy.

          This works well here, but it would be much harder to manage if you have many schools that are oversubscribed.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 10:24:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Chamber of Commerce even has a guide to it (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, fizziks, blueoasis, obiterdictum

    Yuck:

     The Chamber of Commerce's flawed 'Superman' school reform guide
    Washington Post (blog) - Valerie Strauss - ‎13 hours ago‎
    In a shameless act of movie flacking, the US Chamber of Commerce just published a guide for business leaders on school reform that is linked to and ...

  •  It's just a different method of privatization. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, fizziks, blueoasis, divineorder

    The voucher movement doesn't have a lot of credibility because people recognize that it's just a way of funneling public money to private schools. The charter school movement is about privatization of the entire public school system, physical plant and all, via charter school operators. The difference is who's allowed to receive public funds as profits. That's what both movements lead to, but the charter folks are selected to receive money directly by government entities whereas a voucher system is far less predictable in terms of who gets the money. Privatization via charter is more or less a patronage system.

    And because "public" always has a negative connotation in our discourse, public schools must be failing by definition. At the very least they must always be inferior to any private alternative. Public is a dirty word after all.

    "On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points." -- Virginia Woolfe

    by Brainy Smurf on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 04:18:26 PM PDT

  •  Hmmmm..... (3+ / 0-)

    This probably won't be a popular opinion, but I'm going to say no.

    Will it be used by people who want to break the teachers unions? Sure, but I don't believe David Guggenheim set out to make that kind of film, and I don't think the film is that. It's critical of Teachers Unions. But moreover it's critical of the entire bloody system, and (to me) is about why those families in the movie are willing to struggle, scrape, and put themselves through a process that depends on balls bouncing the right way in a lottery in order to attend a school that might be better than the one everyone in the community knows has significant problems. And even though everyone (parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, the community, etc.) knows the school has problems, they tolerate it & the status quo for one reason or another.

    From the A.V. Club:

    Davis Guggenheim: Our schools are not geared toward building, preparing kids for the modern economy. And they really don’t—underneath that is this sort of thinking that all kids can’t learn. The new revolutionaries, these new insurgents, are saying "No, every kid can learn."

    The A.V. Club: You’re setting children up to fail.

    DG: Yep. Underneath it, in An Inconvenient Truth, we talked a lot about the unspoken decisions that people make in their heads. "Oh, the world’s too big to change. Oh, environmentalism is unpopular..."

    AVC: "The system is too ingrained."

    DG: "System is too ingrained..." With this, there are these unspoken choices that we make in our brains. "Oh, I really think school is great for every kid, but those kids over there can’t learn." Or "Those parents don’t care," or "It’s impossible, right?" And that’s what the film is supposed to do. More than the conscious decisions, I’m more attacking the unconscious decisions, to get people to believe again.

    I'm not an expert in education, and I don't claim to be. I support unions, and I supports teachers being able to teach without worrying about losing their jobs because some fundamentalist got upset over a mention of Darwin. However, it does seem ridiculous to have a system where it costs taxpayers millions of dollars and years of litigation to fire seven bad teachers. Does it make me anti-teacher & anti-union if I raise an eyebrow at the current system of teacher evaluation in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which the staff refers to as  "drive-bys"?

    That doesn't mean break out the standardized tests, and use them to make or break someone's career. But it also doesn't mean I'm going to agree with some in the Teachers Unions who scream bloody murder every time questions are asked or a new approach is proposed.

    To answer a question raised in the diary as to why Guggenheim didn't focus on "good public schools, a previous film of his ('The First Year') focused on five beginning teachers in the Los Angeles public school system. Also, while the 'Waiting For "Superman"' does center around charter schools, it does NOT present them as the definitive solution to education. It present them as A solution. In fact, Guggenheim mentions the studies saying many of the charter schools are no better than the public schools in the same area.

  •  WFS is Christianist RW propoganda. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis
    Look at a full spreadsheet of the movie poster on-line anywhere and find the "hidden" Holy Cross. Hint: It's in the upper lefthand corner of the poster, floating within the clouds, and with rays of sunshine beaming down from it onto the child's forehead. WFS is pure RW Christianist claptrap propoganda, bipartisan-style. Reminds me of the old song: "a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down."
  •  Of course (0+ / 0-)

    Given Obama's stance on education reform, he too is a stealthy right winger.

    Why are progressives waging war on America's public school students?

  •  Funny thing about Teachers Unions (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, fizziks, Aquagranny911

    Other countries that we seem to be losing to as education goes often have bigger teachers unions than we do, and almost always have much more central government control over education (such as teacher pay scales) than we do.

    An interesting paper from a right-wing think tank with an unsurprising anti-union bent:
    http://www.adti.net/...

    It plays a lot of games with the statistics later on, but it does at least lead off with some good raw data that can be used to support, as you can see, any point you want.  What certainly isn't in evidence is any smoking gun to lay the blame on unions.

    You're entitled to your own opinions. You're not entitled to your own facts.

    by sproingie on Wed Oct 20, 2010 at 06:29:14 PM PDT

  •  I hadn't realized bureaucracy was progressive (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    edtastic

    and that giving parents control over properly regulated public schools - a control that shows major improvements in education for poor kids - is right wing. I hadn't realized that centralized school districts like that of NYC which operates wonderful rich people's schools on public money in the upper west side of manhattan and dangerous warehouses for poor trash in the South Bronx is a progressive icon.

    The things I learn here.

    •  I don't see where you learned those things (0+ / 0-)

      from this diary.

      •  charter schools are public schools (0+ / 0-)

        where charter schools are properly regulated, they provide, especially poor people, a way of getting power over a system that otherwise treats their children as trash. Given the utter failure of urban school districts to deliver for the poor, there is a reason why poor parents are desperately seeking opportunities in charter schools. And since the famous Ocean-Hill/Brownsville strike, the failure of leadership of the urban teachers unions to advocate for poor children has been an open political problem. The attempt to treat the charter school movement as nothing but union busting is disrespectful of the poor and working class people who are not willing to let their children be warehoused.

  •  I haven't seen this video but what I have (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fizziks

    been reading has given me lots of reasons not to spend $$ to see it.  I would rather give the money to my food bank, shelter, or someone in need.

    Our educational system is broken but it will not be solved by corporate interests, union bashers, RW politicians, or by blaming parents and the vast majority of teachers doing a tough job in an unsupportive environment.  The real solutions rest in the creative minds of each and everyone of us who know that our children are our most precious resource.  

    Out sourcing education to the lowest bidder will be the final nail in our collective coffins.  Thank you for the diary and GOTV for Democrats before there is nothing left of us at all.

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