Waiting for Superman: Solving Problems or Pointing Fingers
In both my education and Navy careers, I’ve held many leadership positions. Whether I was a division officer on a United States Navy destroyer, high school principal, deputy superintendent at the Michigan Department of Education, or executive director of PDK, I worked daily with others to solve problems.
And in all those jobs, we didn’t start the problem solving process by assigning blame. Problems are solved by understanding the problem, then researching solutions, then implementing those solutions in ways that address the original problem. Finger-pointing is not a step in this problem-solving process because assigning blame never solved a problem. If anything, finger-pointing ensures that the problem remains because we lose support from people who will help solve the problem. So what’s my point?
I watched the movie Waiting for Superman. It is a dramatic movie, and I like many in the audience, cried at the end. The movie captures moms, dads and grandparents wanting the best education possible for their child or grandchild, knowing that a good education opens doors of opportunities. I get that. It’s exactly what my wife and I wanted for our daughter. No question—those opportunities are not available to all children—and that’s wrong.
To its credit, the movie portrays, in a very personal way, the inequities not just in our schools but in our society. In following urban families, we gain an understanding of the challenges they face. It’s very moving, and the movie helps audience members understand that we have not incorporated new teaching approaches quickly enough in our public schools.
After all, our schools were designed 100 years ago and they “sorta” worked for 75 years—for many but not all of our children. But what “sorta” worked then isn’t working now for an increasing percentage of students. We have problems with our current educational system. It’s essential that we find solutions.
But finger-pointing doesn’t solve the problem. No, it’s not the parents fault, or the politicians, or teachers or even teacher unions, and we can’t blame the students. We have been unable to react quickly enough to globalization, technology, a new economy, and unforeseen needs in our workplace. And as a nation, we continue to do a poor job addressing equity and opportunity for all of our citizens. But we need to work together to solve these problems—and we need to recognize that it will take time, and that there are no silver bullets.
I’ll be curious to watch what effect the movie “Waiting for Superman” will have. Will its dramatization result in a clarion call for change with people working together, or because the movie decided to identify scapegoats, will it result in segments of our citizens working at cross purposes, ensuring that we continue to do what we’re currently doing?