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Leftists and Public Education: A Dangerous Mix

Posted on September 21 2010 1:00 pm
Suzanne Venker, a.k.a. "No Bull Mom," is an author, blogger, and speaker. You can find her at

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Last week was the Washington premiere of Davis Guggenheim’s new film, “Waiting for Superman.” Guggenheim is the creator of the global warming film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” The guy’s a bona fide member of the left — an odd choice indeed for a film that highlights the sickness of America’s public education system. Conservatives have been waving this flag for years.

Nevertheless, I’m just happy this film was made — regardless of who made it. Though you’d think after making a film of this nature, Guggenheim and his ilk would get it. But they don’t, as William McGurn demonstrates in a Wall Street Journal article entitled “An Even More Inconvenient Truth.”  The article tells you all you need to know about the mindset of the American left.

As a former public school teacher, I can personally vouch for the failures of public schools. In fact, I left teaching for this very reason — a sad commentary, indeed. Thousands of teachers have done just this, as they can not work in a system bogged down with bureaucracy and rife with discipline problems that administrators cannot handle.

But that’s not exactly what “Waiting for Superman” is about — at least I don’t think it is. When it reaches my city, I’ll get back to you on that. Primarily, the film is about the systemic failures of a system that’s overrun by teachers’ unions and liberal dogma — resulting in a complete breakdown of standards and success. Poor (and often fatherless) students who want a better education are forced into a lottery system — their futures are determined by luck of the draw.

Folks like Guggenheim are more fortunate. They opt out of public schools altogether (Guggenheim’s own children attend private school) — which would be fine, if they at least had a firm understanding of why public schools have failed and what must be done to save them. Unfortunately, that is not the case. As Guggenheim writes about his own childhood,

I grew up in a good liberal home in 1968-era Washington, D.C., and I remember going to school in Virginia. When I asked my mother why, she said ‘because the schools here are broken.

You see, leftists understand the problem. They know, for example, that merit pay works. But in “Waiting for Superman,” a common-sense (and no doubt conservative-minded) reformer named Michelle Rhee is featured prominently. She lays out the problems of public schools with nary a thought of political correctness. But when she’s seen announcing some hard-line ideas for reform to a group of less wise parents and educators, she is besieged with “angry, shouting faces,” writes McGurn in the Wall Street Journal article.

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