A Homework Assignment for Private School Families

Well, the long awaited debate on the state of education in the US is here. In case you have not heard, we are all Waiting for Superman, Racing to the Top, or Racing to Nowhere depending on which blog or movie you might have first chanced upon. As a private school that is often said to have a public school heart – with about half our students coming from public elementary schools and about half our graduates attending public high schools – I believe that we have an obligation to consider our “public obligation” and enter into this debate.

With that in mind, I give you all homework; and yes this is intentional and relevant and certainly not busy work! I would ask that we all spend some time in the next month viewing and discussing the following “media events:”

Waiting for Superman. Here are two reviews that provide very different perspectives on this film.

o http://www.examiner.com/family-in-seattle/isabelle-zehnder-review-waiting-for-superman

o http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-ayers-/an-inconvenient-superman-_b_716420.html

Question: Does this movie “provide a strong argument for major reform of America’s educational system and examines how the system is failing our children and, ultimately, our society?” Or is it “a slick marketing piece full of half-truths and distortions.” Talk amongst yourselves!

There is another film that will be harder to find, Race to Nowhere. It will be shown locally on October 26th at the Nova Project, http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/124873.

It is a film that seeks to describe “the dark side of America’s achievement culture.” I had the opportunity to preview Race to Nowhere in the spring at the PNAIS Heads’ Meeting. It is a disturbing film that brings to light the impact of the achievement culture on individual students. While I don’t agree with all the premises presented, I do believe all private school families and educators should see it and enter into that conversation.

Last, but not least, this website describes itself as “a nationally broadcast, in-depth conversation about improving education in America.” You will find links here to the current administration’s Race to the Top initiative, comparisons to other nations – valid or not – and other links for us to view the larger educational landscape, http://www.educationnation.com/.

Given the unique missions of private schools, I will be so bold as to say that we hold a piece of the educational reform puzzle. We must ask of ourselves what we ask of our students: will we be informed and analytical in our approach to understanding and helping solve a key national challenge?