Il Diario di Tinton

{2011-02-20}   Waiting for “Superman”

David guggenheim

20 feb 2011 AA: LHR-ORD

the documentary is productive, as it presents major problems in the current US public school system and how these affect the global quality of life of the US population.

Watching this documentary, i realized that there is more public money/resources spent for poorly performing or problematic individuals than there is for the successful ones. For instance in correction facilities or poor neighborhoods. At first sight, this appeared to me as being backwards: why are those who aren’t able to lead a successful life prized, and those who make it aren’t? It didn’t take much for me to realize that it’s the ones who have problems who need help, and therefore more resources. The thing is, it seems like the resources are being invested, but without the help. A life in need for help needs attention, not money or resources. Money or other resources might be necessary to provide the required attention. It makes little sense to maintain jails and call them correction facilities, where the leading emotions are pain, fear and hate between inmates and guardians. Similarly, it makes little sense to keep the public school system going as it is, just to feel good about having one, and having spent the money for it.

I was not aware of tenure amongst high school teachers, and how easy it is to obtain. I was also not aware of the reform Rheed has worked on. After having identified that one of the problems of poor teaching has to do with the easy to obtain tenure, it became clear that it would be necessary to modify it. This, however, is not an easy task! Who, amongst those who have, doesn’t want a tenure? So what she suggested was not to abolish tenure, rather to offer the individual teachers the option of letting go of it. Why would a teacher want to let go of tenure? Well, i guess one could see it this way: in the market, if one wants to make more money, one needs to make riskier investments. So same for teachers: if one wants to increase the salary, it makes sense to let go of the security of tenure, and enter a less stable, however more financially rewarding, teaching contract. So Rheed was suggesting an almost doubled salary (calculating benefits and rewards) for those able to perform well as teachers.  However, what the documentary doesn’t mention are the problems related to measuring teacher performance. How can we measure

According to the documentary, the union didn’t allow a vote on this proposal and the documentary portrayed this as a failure on Rheed’s part. This i did not agree with: an initial “failure” is expected when one wants to turn things around. It takes time and perseverance. The documentary didn’t show a Rheed filled with hope or with a plan. It portrayed a disillusioned Rheed who understood that the system is not about the students, it’s about the adults. This is a sad understanding unless it is taken to the next step: given this initial failure, we shall keep insisting with our plan of action and keep revising it. Sooner or later we are bound to succeed. This part was missing.

The documentary did present a school system which offered a solution, indicating that the methodology is there. It also indicated at the end that it is the viewer of the documentary who has the power to change the system. However, it didn’t present a plan or suggest what the average joe could do to help make this happen.

I suggest this documentary to everyone, as it is an eye opener, even if its very one-sided anti-unions. I give it two thumbs up, because of its presence: i didn’t have to go on youtube to see it. I found it on the airplane along with the other famous movies.


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