The blame game
Unless you’ve been abroad or hiding in a cave, you’ve undoubtedly heard about “Waiting for Superman,” the controversial documentary film about problems with public school systems around the country. It was on Oprah, for gosh sakes, so you know it’s gotta be big!
Seriously, I first saw the film in mid July at a special screening for CEOs of some of the country’s larger United Ways. I’ve seen it twice since and still find it moving—which makes what I’m about to share with you seem odd, but…
Our United Way was offered the opportunity to host a private screening and convene a public discussion about it the week before the film began showing here commercially. But after significant discussions with our volunteer leadership, we decided to pass.
It wasn’t an easy decision—especially since your local United Way is launching a multi-year collaborative effort to dramatically improve high school graduation rates in the five counties we serve. So “Superman” would seem like a good way to draw attention to our project.
But in our collective opinion, it isn’t. Why? We don’t like the approach the movie takes. In addition to being overly simplistic in both its discussion of the causes of the problem and the potential solutions, the film spends a lot of time on what I call the “blame game.”
There is plenty of blame to go around, but that’s not the tone we want for our regional project. We believe we can achieve a better long-term result by avoiding the polarization that blame tends to create. We’re not looking to pick a fight. We just want to fix the system.
As I said, I think “Superman” is too simplistic. It doesn’t identify all the problems or potential solutions. It misses entirely on the issue of parental involvement in kids’ education, for example. I learned a long time ago to be wary of people offering simple solutions to complex problems.
However, having said all that, if you care about public education I would urge you to see the film (which begins its public screening Oct. 8). It will leave you angry and unsettled, and wanting to do something about the situation. That’s a good thing.
By the way, one thing you could do to help if you really want to
dig in and tackle the issues is to considering volunteering with
our new regional project. You don’t have to be an expert, but you
do have to be willing to listen, learn and work hard.
If that would be of interest, please let me know.