America’s public schools are the engine of America’s greatness. From the 1880s on they turned a flood of children of immigrants—most of them poor, illiterate, and speaking no English—into patriotic successful citizens, prepared for college or for a productive life without college. They laid the foundation for America’s productive might, innovative genius and entrepreneurial spirit.
Now they are failing. Big time. In Los Angeles, for example, only half of the students graduate, and of those who do, fewer that 30 per cent are ready for college, according to Los Angeles mayor Anthony Villaraigosa’s op-ed piece in today’s Los Angeles Times. And the story is similar all over America. In our cities it seems that the thing the schools are best at is preparing boys for prison and girls for single motherhood.
Last night I saw a wonderful documentary, Waiting for Superman. It documents not just the schools’ failure but also the kids’ ability to learn—to excel—when given good teaching. The movie makes vivid the burning of poor, uneducated parents to give their children a better chance, the conviction of some reformers and philanthropists that things could be better, and the cost in dollars and ruined lives of bad teachers.
The movie will stoke your anger at all the people who are allowing this tragedy to continue, and at the politicians who could do something and who don’t.
Watch the trailer.