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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Waiting For An Honest Review

I'm not foolish enough to believe that the modern documentary - save anything done by Ken Burns - isn't purely an ideological point of view. However, any good documentarian has to be able to engage the audience with a balance of factual analysis and an emotional element that will keep them engaged.

Far too many documentaries are predicated on "fear" ( see anything done by Alex Jones ) while some utilize "humor" to the point where you have to ask if the director is actually taking the subject matter seriously enough ( see everything Micheal Moore has done since his days with the television show TV Nation ). And while both have elements of truth to them, a good documentarian will make us dig deeper, to seek out what lies in between the visual lines.

With that as the preamble, I just have to state that I think all these machinations from the modern American Right in regards to Waiting For Superman and how it wasn't nominated for an Academy Award are grounded in nothing more than a poor understanding of what is really wrong with public schools in America and how Documentaries are nominated for the ultimate "golden statue".

The entire thesis of Guggenheim’s film is predicated on the notion that if only every American could send their kids to "charter schools" then everything would be just grand.

But seeing as how the bulk of "charter schools" not only espouse but teach from a very specific and very rigid religious and socio-political point of view, one would think that this would run completely contrary to the modern American Right's claims of being against indoctrination. But one would be wrong.

As far as how and why Guggenheim's film was not nominated, it has all to do with his fellow documentarians and NOT the average Academy Member. Also, there are two rounds of consideration, and "Waiting....." was an early entry into the second round but simply didn't make the final cut. If the Right is really looking for a target, they should talk to someone like Morgan Spurlock, director of "Supersize Me" and one of the newest member of the Academy Documentary Nomination Committee.

But should someone like Spurlock be the real focus of why this Documentary didn't make the final cut, or is Guggenheim's style indicative of a failing to show balance? I would say the later is most certainly the case - and the modern American Right's misappropriation of the material to attack the union members of Wisconsin is a clear example.

No one, and most certainly not me, are claiming that our public schools are perfect - as that would be an unattainable goal. What we have to look at is how we measure that perfection and how we can assure that every school has the same ability to improve infrastructure. And if you think the later doesn't matter then you are fooling yourself. I can virtually guarantee that sending a kid to a school that looks like a condemned housing project and sending one that has modernize equipment are going to produce two very different kids after 8th grade.

But that doesn't leave teachers off the hook - at least not totally. They are there to provide the best available educational process possible, given the material and environment at their disposal. And that is where we finally reach the "collective bargaining" process that the modern American Right are completely against.

Do you really believe that the average public school teacher in America enjoys this lavish lifestyle and a pension that they can live off of exclusively? Not at all, yet that is the false portrait that is being painted. Collective bargaining isn't going to get your the Mercedes and the 5 bedroom home. At best, it gets you a living wage with at least a minimal of guaranteed healthcare coverage.

But to be able to attend that "charter school" in your region, you would already have to be able to afford that Mercedes or that 5 bedroom house for it not to adversely effect your monthly budget.

And this is where we see how class warfare and public education plays a clear role in the arguments from the modern American Right.

You see, it's not such a simple topic to tackle like people are being led to believe it is. And it's not so much of an issue of "waiting for a superhero" to magically make it all better, but an issue of waiting for people to realize that complexities can't be oversimplified.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

You should definitely check out Nursery Academy and The Lottery. Both of them have to do with child placement in charter schools and academies. The Lottery is about a charter school with a lottery and Nursery Academy is about the huge hubbub that is the New York City push for the best nursery schools because they lead directly to certain colleges. (or so they say)I just got a copy of Waiting for Superman today, so I'll be checking it out. But I do think that charter schools DO some good for the public education system. Because it forces the public school to actually do some things better so that they can get the students so they can get the funding. It opens up some competitiveness. But don't confuse charter school with private school. Most of the "non" public schools here are private schools and not charter. Charter schools are almost like a midway point between private and public.

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