The Myth of the Charter School by Diane Ravitch
"Ordinarily, documentaries about education attract little attention, and seldom, if ever, reach neighborhood movie theaters. Davis Guggenheim’s "Waiting for “Superman” is different. It arrived in late September with the biggest publicity splash I have ever seen for a documentary. Not only was it the subject of major stories in Time andNew
, but it was featured twice onThe Oprah Winfrey Show and was the centerpiece of several days of programming by NBC, including an interview with President Obama. York
Two other films expounding the same arguments—The Lottery and The Cartel—were released in the late spring, but they received far less attention than Guggenheim’s film. His reputation as the director of the Academy Award–winningAn Inconvenient Truth, about global warming, contributed to the anticipation surrounding Waiting for “Superman,” but the media frenzy suggested something more. Guggenheim presents the popularized version of an account of American public education that is promoted by some of the nation’s most powerful figures and institutions.
The message of these films has become alarmingly familiar: American public education is a failed enterprise. The problem is not money. Public schools already spend too much. Test scores are low because there are so many bad teachers, whose jobs are protected by powerful unions. Students drop out because the schools fail them, but they could accomplish practically anything if they were saved from bad teachers. They would get higher test scores if schools could fire more bad teachers and pay more to good ones. The only hope for the future of our society, especially for poor black and Hispanic children, is escape from public schools, especially to charter schools, which are mostly funded by the government but controlled by private organizations, many of them operating to make a profit."
Read more in the New York Review of Books.