Three weeks ago NBC unveiled their latest reality TV show, School Pride. Billed as a group of community organizers traveling to neighborhood schools in need, the show has chronicled their work at three schools so far. In my October 8 posting I wrote of my excitement at the prospect of finally having a reality show that expressed a social conscience.
Imagine my surprise when I received an email, this past Friday, from the Council for Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) suggesting that I could "help save School Pride". Apparently the 8:00 p.m. Friday time slot, or the limited advertisement, or the fact that no one is dancing with a star has resulted in low viewership and market share.
In an attempt to help create a greater "Buzz" CEFPI held a School Pride Chat with Jacob Soboroff, one of the show's hosts and a journalist with AMC News. The chat involved school planners, designers, administrators, suppliers and builders for the three hours leading up to Friday's School Pride episode.
Soboroff kicked it off by saying: "While I learned this summer at schools across the country that there is no silver bullet to making sure every child in America gets a great education, the quality of facilities kids have plays an important role."
Questions of facility maintenance, student safety, green initiatives and volunteerism were asked from a group that ranged from past CEFPI presidents to project interns. Waiting for 'Superman' was raised as an excellent vehicle for raising the national attention. So shouldn't an extreme school makeover show be one of the logical extensions?
Soboroff suggested that one of "the goals of the show is to be a woodpecker on the conscience of Americans." He went on to say "we want folks to know that in some of America's greatest cities, our schools are literally crumbling. But we also want them to know extraordinary things are happening in our schools, and it's because of dedicated parents, students, teachers and administrators. The message of this show is that when a community comes together around a school amazing things are possible."
Amazing seems to be the right word; the show drew over 15,000 volunteers in seven school communities over one summer. And all this without one dancing star!
I can't help think of the old bumper sticker that suggests one day schools will have all the funding that they request and the air force will have to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber. There are more that 130,000 school facilities in the country and the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act could barely scratch together $11 Billion dollars in school assistance. The estimated allocation for national defense, in 2011, was more than $700 billion.
Viewers have been able to save other TV shows on the verge of cancellation, most famously back in the 1960s when the original Star Trek was saved by calling the network and expressing the opinion that it spoke to underlying societal issues, broke through social barriers and Yeoman Janice Rand was cute. School Pride might speak to all of this without the need for Yeoman Janice.
I'm not sure we really need not another dancing/talent/survivor based reality show -- but I do know we need better schools!