Waiting for Superman

Aaron Swartz:

Despite repeatedly insisting poor kids just need better teachers, the film [Waiting for “Superman”] never says what it is that better teachers actually do. Instead it highlights the voices of American Express pitchman Geoffrey Canada and Bill Gates, whose obsessions with higher standardized test scores have led their schools to cancel recess and art in favor of more hours of scripted memorization.

Why bother with art if teaching is just about filling kids’ heads with pre-determined facts? The real crisis in American education isn’t teachers’ unions preventing incompetent teachers from getting fired (as awful as that may be), it’s the single-minded focus on standardized test scores that underlies everything from Bush’s No Child Left Behind to Obama’s Race to the Top to the charter schools lionized in the film.

Real education is about genuine understanding and the ability to figure things out on your own; not about making sure every 7th grader has memorized all the facts some bureaucrats have put in the 7th grade curriculum.

One thought on “Waiting for Superman

  1. There’s so much wrong with “education” in this country, i scarcely know where to start. The very time of day is wrong for most teens since they aren’t at their best (by and large, according to research) until later in the day – but that would screw up the sports teams and bussing schedules (like THAT’s the bottom line). It’s too rigid and fact-test oriented, but there are problems with the touted “discovery” method too. No one way works for all students and the methods used to “teach” are all flawed in some way (and depend on an ideal set of underlying circumstances – take nutrition for example – that are rarely the reality in most kids’ lives). We have a large drop-out rate because of all these factors and others – and they all impact our society sooner or later. Even at the college level it’s biased, scripted and “unfair” to way too many undergrads who have to endure largely inadequate TA’s subbing for tenured Phds who are too busy trying to publish (so they don’t perish) and have next to no time because of the corporate-driven grant programs. It’s all connected from Congress and state legislators to corporations to education being driven by dollars and not knowledge. Look at Michigan’s new program of entrepreneur development to see how it’s designed to attract venture capital and you’ll see what i’m talking about.
    Schools have adopted a “business model” in order to be viable, but this is detrimental to the students and leaves us where we are – tied with Guam in the global education ranking.

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