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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Education Documentaries Coming Out

West Seattle Dawg recently mentioned this education documentary, Race To Nowhere. I hadn't heard of it. Here's a blurb about it:

Director Vicki Abeles turns the personal political by igniting a national conversation in groundbreaking documentary about the pressures American schoolchildren and their teachers face moving into the 21 century. What started as a private family matter widened into a cogent examination of systematic pressures faced by youth and teachers today amid a focus on high stakes testing, competing in the global economy and increasingly unrealistic expectations of parents, universities, school districts and society at large. The demands have crushing, widespread consequences. Many students are disengaged, cheating is commonplace, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant and students arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people who have been pushed to the brink, parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, and educators who are burned out and worried students aren’t developing the skills needed for the global economy, points to the silent epidemic running rampant in our schools.

Another one coming out (probably in wide release as it was at Sundance and got a release deal) is Waiting for Superman. From a review:

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us that education “statistics” have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. As he follows a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth, Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes,” methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems.

However, embracing the belief that good teachers make good schools, and ultimately questioning the role of unions in maintaining the status quo, Guggenheim offers hope by exploring innovative approaches taken by education reformers and charter schools that have—in reshaping the culture—refused to leave their students behind.

This one is being marketed as "An Inconvenient Truth" for education. But it has the lineup of Bill Gates, Melinda Gates and Michelle Rhee (chancellor of D.C. public schools) that puts me off a bit. Oddly, I can't find a website for it just a lot of reviews.

I'm not endorsing either (I haven't seen them) but they certain sound like an interesting contrast in viewpoints.

9 comments:

kingb said...

here's a good link for "Waiting for Superman"

http://sundance.bside.com/2010/films/waitingforsuperman_sundance2010

dan dempsey said...

Wow... this situation is likely creating an increased demand for Big Pharma products. Next product will likely be Family Pack "one a day" mood stabilizers.

Anonymous said...

Maybe your students have a use for this: I have just added a Reference List to my economics blog with economic data series, history, bibliographies etc. for students & researchers. Currently over 200 meta sources, it will in the next days grow to over a thousand. Check it out and if you miss something, feel free to leave a comment.

wseadawg said...

MW: Thank you for the thread.

I intend to see both pictures and try to reconcile them as best I can. Many Edu-reformers have their hearts in the right place, but suffer from hubris and a compulsion to believe they could do things better, despite being utterly clueless to what actually goes on in schools.

We all share a desire for education to be better for everyone if possible, and particularly for those children who struggle the hardest, have the most challenges, and are most disadvantaged when they walk in the school door.

From Roger Ebert's review, it sounds like the teacher's union gets most of the blame for what's wrong with our schools.

I guess I'm an anti-sucker for demonization of particular groups. To me, that's always a red flag and usually proof positive of a desire to deflect criticism and accountability from other equally culpable, or more culpable groups.

To zero in on unions when we have never given teachers a full tool set to work with is worse than unfair and unjust. It's juvenile and hypocritical, not to mention stupid. What miraculous plan will work to "reform schools" if the money and resources are not there, year after year to support them.

And that is another huge issue I have with the edu-philanthropists. What will happen when their money runs out? Will programs collapse? Will taxpayers step up and fill in the dollars where private interests are placing them now? I think it would be foolish to assume so.

I'm also put off by the fact that so many philanthropic dollars are spent on computers, databases, testing, etc., instead of being used to reduce class sizes, or otherwise directly into the classroom. Why aren't they doing that? Wouldn't that be the first place to start, and to try that first, before concluding unionized teachers are a bad thing and responsible for all that is wrong with public education today?

I hope Roger Ebert will watch Race to Nowhere and review it too, just to be fair and objective.

owlhouse said...

I have been in contact with the director of Race to Nowhere as some in the Nova community are looking forward to helping host a showing and/or promote the film. No firm dates yet, but it will be in Seattle "soon."

More films to keep an eye on:

Children Left Behind

The War on Kids

I see a mini film fest in the works.

I'm very curious about Waiting for Superman. Michelle Rhee has no credibility with me. I haven't looked at the funders, but know that Bill Gates took his first trip to Sundance this year, in part for this film specifically.

dan dempsey said...

In thinking about education and decision making et al.

Paul Dunham was speaker #2 at the Feb 3 board meeting... Check it out he talks about school decision makers coming from the Ed culture and being ill equipped to make decisions about Math or engineering because they never learned math very well in the first place. He says it is like oil and water.

This would make an interesting documentary.... because in the presentations and voting and explanations for votes it was almost 100% Ed culture psycho-babble.
I sat near Paul he could only shake his head. These folks like English major Anna-Maria are just not cutting it as Math decision makers and leaders ... if results are what is needed. She has the educrat dialog down pat ... but that has not and will not produce achievement gains.

Paul found Harium very high on the edubabble scale with his emphasis on NTN giving us a vehicle to learn the process from.... as the content was really up to us.

I guess that was his cover as the EOC content scores for most NTN schools are horrible. Man this would make a great documentary.

Decisions make by hope no data required or wanted.

kingb said...

"Michelle Rhee has no credibility with me"

why?

owlhouse said...

Rhee is an "educator" with no real respect for children. She shows little commitment to addressing challenges except by way of closing schools only to open charters with public funds granted to corporate operators. A short list of my concerns :

Overhiring (including troops of TFAers) in a time of budget shortfall only to then fire teachers

Claim, but not document, terrible /criminal teaching practices

Nepotism in partnering with out-of-state property managers who have repeatedly been sited for mismanagement- including dangerous and squalid conditions

Attempting to implement a tiered, merit-pay system with teachers "voluntarily" give up tenure and receive bonus pay based directly on student test scores

Co-housing public and charter schools with very different cultures and available resources

Mismanaging security, including use of a failing, bankrupt firm

Massive budget mismanagement, including apparently false testimony to the DC Council

kingb, what's your impression of DC School under Rhee?

kingb said...

honestly don't know enough about it, but do notice that Rhee is often featured/showcased/mentioned as a reformer in various articles, new reports, etc.

i also don't understand the overall hostility towards charter schools..they do some things right, and the point is they have the flexibility to at least try, instead of being handcuffed by bureaucracy & politics