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Leftists and Public Education: A Dangerous Mix

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.

When McGurn suggests to Guggenheim that Ms. Rhee may be booted out and might benefit from intervention by the President (who claims that education reform is precisely what this country needs), Guggenheim says he doesn’t get involved in political solutions. He says this despite conceding that Ms. Rhee’s departure from the D.C. public schools is akin to

turning the lights out in the middle of heart surgery.

Wimps. Cowards. Losers — that’s what leftists are. How on earth can education reform exist without people like Ms. Rhee? Making a film that highlights the problem is easy. Doing something about it — now that’s a whole different ball game. Which is why Guggenheim’s response to the problem of public schools is to lay it back in the lap of teachers’ unions.

I would love a union leader to see this film and say, ‘I love being a teacher and I love my union, but we need to get on the right side of reform.

Um, pardon me, Mr. Guggenheim, but teachers’ unions are part of the problem. They’re never going to see it the way you “hope” they will. The solution must come from independent folks like Ms. Rhee. If you do not actively support these people — even if you have to get your hands dirty in the political world and deal with people hating you — education stalls.

The problem is that which Mr. Guggenheim cannot see: The liberal home in which he was raised, the one he believes was “good” one for this very reason, was not. Folks who were raised with a 1960s mentality cannot see the fundamental flaws of their own ideology. They are blinded by loyalty to their parents’ cause and utterly helpless in their ability to solve real problems.

That’s why they make movies instead.

Suzanne Venker is the co-author of the forthcoming book What Conservative Women Know (WND Books). Her website is www.suzannevenker.com.

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