I recently saw a screening of the documentary "Waiting for Superman" and felt compelled to share a few words on how it stirred within me a sense of "What if?"
I oftentimes wonder what life would have been like had I paid more attention to my teachers in school, and less attention to my fellow students. Perhaps I'd be more politically involved or maybe a little more helpful on a road trip when handed a map. Not that it was very easy to hold my attention back then. My brother used to joke when we were younger, "If you sent Jimmy in to ask someone for directions, he'd come back without them. But he'd be able to tell you where the person was from and what they were wearing." So as you can imagine, I was probably a little more than my teachers had bargained for!
I attended three different schools while growing up in Massachusetts, and although none of them stand out as the backdrop for any particular exciting time in my youth, at least I was given the chance to attend the school my parents wanted me to, something a lot of kids today don't necessarily get, as "Waiting for Superman" points out. Learning in school was not exactly one of the high points of my youth. Mike Dugan said it best when writing about his childhood in the book, "Men Fake Foreplay". He wrote "I realized I laughed at the people I should have listened to, and I listened to the people I should have laughed at." That pretty much sums it up for me, and might explain why I did the same book report 4 years in a row. I'm pretty sure I never even read the book; I think I just saw the movie.
"Waiting for Superman" sheds some much needed light on the plight of America's educational system. And it does so in a very heartfelt way, sharing the stories of five different families whose children are basically seeking their right to an education. It made me think back on how I may have taken my own education for granted. I'm sure I must have read a lot of books in school back then, but I can only honestly only recall two. One was called The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and the other was, "My Life and Game" by Bjorn Borg. I don't even think Borg wrote the latter, but it was "his" story just the same. These are the two literary companions that I remember most, the two books that prepared me for my journey from the east to the west. It's no wonder I've never owned my own home!
I feel like I've been pretty lucky, I've traveled much of this great world and even met some pretty fascinating people along the way who've actually helped shape it. I've been fortunate enough to discover the genius of writers like Emerson and Thoreau, have had dinner in Versailles and to have even been a guest at the White House! However, even with all of these incredible adventures, I can't help but sometimes feel as though I may have shortchanged myself by not being more present back in school. In fact, very rarely do I drive by any particular college or university and not wish I had "the college experience" so many of my friends today cherish and talk about.
After seeing the film, I found myself pondering many questions about my own childhood, not only my own failures and successes but also the failures and successes of the school system itself, both public and private. I look back on the early years of my education, or lack thereof, and I wonder if I would have paid less attention to the kids and more attention to the teachers had Waiting for Superman been made before I entered the school system.
It feels to me the makers of Waiting for Superman are about to make a very powerful splash. Names like Geoffrey Canada and Michelle Rhee will become known to an even wider audience in New York and Los Angeles when this film premieres on September 24th and even more so nationwide when it opens in October. And this splash will not only be felt in the world of education, including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Teachers Association (NEA), but in the world itself. A splash that may initially seem disturbing, but will hopefully be refreshing because of the inevitable life-changes that will no doubt come about because it was made.
I am sure, as Dugan so eloquently said, I was laughing where I should have been listening, and listening where I should have been laughing, but hopefully others growing up today will be more enlightened as to what's at stake when going through the school system. And I'm sure, after seeing this film, many will be reminded of the importance of an education as well as the absolute right to one. A right that too many people in this country are simply denied.
I am certainly no film critic, but I can tell you when a film is worth your time. 'Waiting for Superman" is worth your time. Future kids might not laugh when they should listen, and because of this film, they might actually have schools worth going to because enough people really cared to make a difference.
Oh, and as my brother might point out, I might also be able to tell you who was in it, and what they were wearing, but I'll let you discover all that for yourself!
For more information on this movie, please visit "www.waitingforsuperman.com" or text the word "PLEDGE" to 77177 from your cell phone.