School Choice Influenced by… the Movies?

Two films will be coming out over the next several months that will put my school search into a much broader perspective.

The first is a documentary called “The Lottery” (out now in limited release, not sure of the Philadelphia release)

In a country where 58% of African American 4th graders are functionally illiterate, The Lottery uncovers the failures of the traditional public school system and reveals that hundreds of thousands of parents attempt to flee the system every year.

The Lottery follows four of these families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery. Out of thousands of hopefuls, only a small minority will win the chance of a better future.

The second is Waiting for Superman (opening this fall)

For a nation that proudly declared it would leave no child behind, America continues to do so at alarming rates. Despite increased spending and politicians’ promises, our buckling public-education system, once the best in the world, routinely forsakes the education of millions of children.

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us that education “statistics” have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. As he follows a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth, Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes,” methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems.

Clearly the public education system is broken in a lot of cities, including Philadelphia.  I imagine that these films will enlighten us as to the possibly shocking sources of these problems in other cities, like teacher’s unions hiring anti-charter protesters.  Still, I did not start this blog setting out to become an education reform advocate or opponent, I was simply looking for a place to send my kids to school and thought that I would share my experience with others in the same boat.  Over the past few months, I have started to delve into news and education policy on this blog and I don’t want to follow that path again.  Why?  Because I am not a qualified voice for or against public school reform.  However, these films are too apropos and too provocative to let pass by without mention.  I haven’t seen them yet (they have yet to be released in Philadelphia), but even the trailers for these films (view them after the break) are so provocative it is hard to stay quiet.

It raises an interesting dilemma.  My family can afford private school, though we would have to make not insignificant changes to our lifestyle in order to do so.  We are considering primarily mainstream public and charter schools.  After seeing these film trailers, there are new questions that I am starting to ask myself.  Should I refrain from entering the charter school lottery because I don’t want to take a seat away from a student who needs it more than my child?  If I choose to send my child to private school, am I contributing to the problem?  I plan to see both of these films.  I wonder if they will influence my school choice.

The Lottery

Waiting for Superman

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