On September 24th, the movie Waiting for Superman will be released. It is directed by Davis Guggenheim, who directed An Inconvenient Truth, the movie that rocketed Al Gore to movie superstardom. Word is, according to both the September 20, 2010 issue of Time magazine and today’s Los Angeles Times, that Waiting for Superman is a tough look at our education system and not favorable to the teachers’ unions.
So, it will be interesting to see how the Left reacts. Following the success of An Inconvenient Truth, the Left rallied to the cause of environmentalism, global warming (and “climate change”, when some questioned whether the globe was really warming). It is easier for the Left when the villains are big carbon-spewing corporations. When the teachers’ unions, the political bread and butter for the Democratic party, take a hit, we will see whether the Left will embrace this film or call for its boycott.
Either way, it appears that this film is one more step on a pathway that the Left does not wish to tread: education reform, beyond merely throwing money at the system. Accountability, standards, and performance reviews are going to be a part of the new metric. Funding will follow performance and performance will drive funding. It is not a novel idea, but one that has been anathema to generations of teachers’ unions and politicians.
Still, there will be those who cling to the old ways. In my hometown of Claremont, the school board has placed Measure CL on the November ballot. This is a $95 million bond to pay for a host of goodies for the local public school system. One thing worth noting: it is a tremendous public school system without the proposed $95 million in “upgrades”. Yet, the “more money is all we need” mindset remains. The school district leadership is calling for an additional assessment to be added to our overloaded property tax bills, in the middle of a recession and depressed real estate market.
Ironically, after a year of contentious debate between the faculty association (teachers’ union), the District‘s Administration, and school board, they have come together over the one thing they all, as card-carrying members of the education establishment, can believe in: getting more of the taxpayers’ money. The union’s new contract, signed the day before the school board voted to put the bond on the ballot, called for the union to support the bond measure. For some, the old ways still die hard.
There is no problem in education that money cannot solve. Waiting for Superman may demonstrate the fallacy of that argument, but for those of us paying the bills, it may remain an “inconvenient truth”. Stay tuned.