Sunday, October 03, 2010

throw a rock.....,

NYTimes | Take along a handkerchief if you plan to see the new education documentary “Waiting for Superman.” Steve Barr, a tough-minded charter school developer, told me on Friday that he had already seen the film four times and still can’t get through it without sobbing.

Mr. Barr believes that the film has pulled back the curtain on a world that most Americans would otherwise not have seen — the desperation of parents who struggle, often in vain, to get their children into better schools. (The Superman in the title refers to one charter school operator’s childhood belief that the ghetto in which he lived might one day be rescued by the Man of Steel.)

Mr. Barr is unnerved by the cartoonish debate that has erupted around the movie. The many complex problems that have long afflicted public schools are being laid almost solely at the feet of the nation’s teachers’ unions.

In recent days, Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers (the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union after the National Education Association) has been portrayed on the Internet as the Darth Vader of public schooling. She talks like a union chief in the film — which makes no mention of her genuine efforts to work with school systems to promote reform.

The unions deserve criticism for resisting sensible changes for far too long and for protecting inept teachers who deserve to be fired. But at least in some places that is changing. And they are by no means responsible for the country’s profound neglect of public education until about 20 years ago when the federal government began pushing the states to provide better oversight.

For years, urban politicians ransacked districts with patronage and fraud. Teachers chose to unionize in part to protect themselves from politicians.