Waiting for Superman

I finally watched Waiting for Superman last night (about 2 years late). I wasn’t quite as angry as I thought I would be, but some of the directors claims were completely unexamined.

In this post, I’ll just give on e example.  There was a clear assumption that Michelle Rhee’s merit play pan was perfectly reasonable.

For this one, Jonthan Kozol says it best.  The following has been a long earmarked page in the book The Shame of the Nation:  “What does it do to those who enter a profession, as the best of educators do, out of enlightened and unselfish inclinations that are not at all unlike the call to ministry or service that brings others into occupations that are altruistic at their core, then find their frame of reference is distorted by a rivalry for extra money at the cost of fellow educators at another school nearby who are often doing every bit as good a job as they but happen to have a group of kids this year with far more complicated problems than their own or who perhaps have had a string of substitute teachers the preceding years? Teachers in these instances are penalized collectively for long-existing problems over which they did not have control; and, while the cash rewards, in principle, are correlated with the progress children make in any given year, there is often little measurabe progress made at first after students in a school have been subjected to long periods in which there was no continuity in their instruction.”


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4 Responses to Waiting for Superman

  1. snoogles says:

    I think that a deeper problem here is the assumption that the measures of student “progress” being used are legitimate when they are clearly not. They are easily manipulable and obviously have nothing to do with meaningful student growth, which is why there is rampant teacher cheating when they are attached to a paycheck. Also I’m uncomfortable with teaching being treated like some sort of ascetic calling – I’m not a monk, I’m a professional. When teaching is characterized like this it can be used to justify all kinds of things, like the suggestion that teachers don’t deserve compensation for their work or the implication that teachers who work towards greater respect for the profession and for all workers are somehow less committed to their students. If I worked for free I wouldn’t be a better teacher, but that is what Kozol is implying.

    • mcarlberg says:

      Because of the particular experience that brought me into teaching, I’ve always connected with the first part of Kozol’s quote. In some ways, I think that the comparison to the ministry is useful. Teachers have chosen a career of service–to kids and the community–and have taken ourselves out of the mainstream economy, usually in hopes of doing some type of “greater good.” (Here, I also want to include an argument about how teachers could make more money if they participated in the mainstream economy, but I’m not sure if the statement generalizes).

      But, I totally hear the point about how this sentiment could be used to justify all types of terrible things.

      • snoogles says:

        I don’t see how teachers are outside of the mainstream economy. There are 4 million teachers in the US, putting teaching among the most common occupations.

      • mcarlberg says:

        Mainstream was the complete wrong word to use on my part.

        Teachers have removed themselves from the for-profit/private sector economy. Choosing to become a public school teacher is a choice not to become rich.

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