As a young boy I recall the film "Superman" and an indestructible plastic figure of the character I threw around the room. My specific memories are lost to time but I remember how great a film it really was and how it helped to transfer this comic book character into a cultural icon. This guy could fix anything and embodied all that made America great. As an adult, I have a greater appreciation of what really made this film great, the talents of Reeve, Hackman, Brando, Ford, Beatty, Kidder...talk about talent. There is another film coming out that draws on the collective memory of Americans, "Waiting for Superman" and it has caused a lot of buzz, even before it opened. In the 1978 film, our hero saved Lois by spinning the Earth backwards. Not seen in the film are all the people who suffer unintended consequences as a result of Superman's actions. The focus stays fixed on that trench that appeared on that road and the fate of Lois Lane.
The steady drumbeat of education reform has grown increasingly loud in the past decade. Much of it fueled by experts that seem to appear from every corner of society, it now is more like a deafening roar. Guggenheim's "Waiting for Superman" plays to this and at the least is expected to provide more momentum for dramatic action. As we watch it is perhaps worth reflecting on how much trouble the educational "system" is actually in and take stock of where we are. The battle cries of educational reformers have echoed throughout the land since the time of Sputnik calling on more and more changes to be enacted. Some say the debate has reached a tipping point. The questions before us is which way are we headed? Like Lois into the abyss of a trench, swallowed and covered over by developing nations; or, steadied back to the plane of measured and incremental "improvement" upon the system up and avoiding the trench.
We have a unique perspective on all of this change as it affects what we do everyday, teach. We are kind of on that road with Lois(with those kids). That lens no doubt affects our views but perhaps also gives us insight as to what goes on beyond the bright light of the camera in that scene where Superman saved his love by spinning the Earth in reverse. Superman didn't debate too long on whether what he was doing was right, or even consider everyone else affected. He just did it. As you watch that movie you weren't supposed to even think about that. The people of Earth didn't get to choose whether they wanted this to happen. They were just along for the ride. A feeling many of today's Students, parents and teachers can relate to.
But if asked wouldn't the humans in the movie want to save Lois too? Maybe Superman could have asked for help from someone? Even solicited ideas. I mean we trusted him, didn't we? But he made a choice, an expedient one and it seemed to have turned out OK. But that process doesn't seem too American...at least to a kid like me raised on 70's movies. While the public debate about education is polemical and centers on children left behind, unions, merit pay, standardized tests, "failing schools" and the like, maybe we ought to just pause for a second, ask for some input and figure out what to do. Perhaps we could find the educational equivalent to Reeve, Hackman, Beatty and the like to help us out and make things great. Whatever course we choose, rest assured that our decisions will affect more than Superman's did and that won't be hidden from view. For better or worse we will all deal with the consequences.