|Controversial film focuses on issues in education|
|Written by Tony Compton, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Wednesday, 17 November 2010 23:51|
“Waiting for Superman,” a documentary about the flaws of the American school system, debuted at the Normal Theater last night, Nov. 17.
The documentary, originally released on Sept. 24, has come under public scrutiny for the depiction of the American public school system.
“The hype for the movie was far darker than what I saw,” Deborah Curtis, dean of the College of Education, said. “I thought, at times, they shined a bright light on areas where we need to put our best efforts and resources.”
Paula Ressler, associate professor of English education, and Lisya Seloni, assistant professor of English education, together issued a written statement about the film.
“We found the film to be part of a well-funded effort to dismantle and discredit the very idea of public education,” they said.
The documentary points a finger at many issues currently causing problems in the American educational system, including the tenure granted to teachers — making it very hard to fire ineffective teachers.
Michelle Rhee, chancellor of public schools in Washington, D.C., has been in the middle of a heated debate since taking the reigns of the nation’s worst city for education. She stands against the teachers’ unions, especially tenures granted.
“It’s incredibly difficult to fire an ineffective teacher; you basically have to meet a criminal standard,” Rhee said on the Oprah Winfrey show on Sept. 20.
The process of firing a tenured teacher isn’t the most clearly stated process either, Norm Durflinger, interim superintendent of the Peoria School District and co-director of the Center for the Study of Education Policy, said.
“A problem is administration not understanding the structure of evaluating teachers, or the process of getting rid of bad teachers,” Durflinger added.
“If we find a D-level teacher, we need to train them and get them to a C, and if they don’t then we can get rid of them,” he said.
Durflinger added firing a teacher is not only a confusing and tricky process, but also an expensive one.
He cited the Small Newspaper Group filed a Freedom of Information Act request to receive every attorney bill paid by schools to fire a tenured teacher. The average price paid, he said, was $219, 504.12.
“It’d be easy to blame it all on tenure, but that isn’t the only problem,” Durflinger said.
The documentary also addresses issues regarding unions, school funding, teacher salaries and parental involvement.
“When parents advocate and support their child’s education, it plays a very important part in the achievement of the student,” Durflinger said.
Whether the film is right or wrong in its accusations is for the viewer to decide, Ressler and Seloni said, but it brings up many of the hot topics of education reform.
“It is very important that university students learn to view propaganda efforts such as this with a critical eye, and begin to unpack the real issues that are at the heart of the dismantling of public education at the K-12 and university levels,” they said.