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MGTC35S Class of September 20, 2011. “Waiting for Superman” What does the documentarist (Davis Guggenheim) think is wrong with American public education.

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Presentation on theme: "MGTC35S Class of September 20, 2011. “Waiting for Superman” What does the documentarist (Davis Guggenheim) think is wrong with American public education."— Presentation transcript:

1 MGTC35S Class of September 20, 2011

2 “Waiting for Superman” What does the documentarist (Davis Guggenheim) think is wrong with American public education and what remedies does he suggest? What narrative techniques does he use to advance his argument? Evaluate Geoffrey Canada as an educational leader Evaluate Michelle Rhee as an educational leader 2

3 Sept. 20: Educational Reform Heroic Teachers, Charter Schools Tim Hortons and “coffee stories” Note-taker needed Setting the stage: transformational teacher narratives “Waiting for Superman”: one of the first narratives about educational reform 3

4 Transformational teachers The dominant fable Freedom Writers (2007), Stand and Deliver (1989), Dangerous Minds (1995) S & D: Bolivian math teacher (male), Latino students in East LA, AP calculus, results challenged, East LA math program FW: female English teacher in Long Beach use personal journals to energize students DM: female English teacher in academy program in Palo Alto, CA earns love and respect of her students Male versus female subjects? 4

5 How to be a transformational teacher In the classroom Be cool Set a (collective) stretch goal, sign contracts Be the coach, helping them achieve the goal Be patient: transformation takes time Outside the classroom Sacrifice: be available 24/7 outside class Connect: with student culture, families 5

6 How to be a transformational teacher In the educational system Market: publicize your efforts to attract interest, attention, resources Be savvy: size up who are your opponents and supporters Diversify: look for support at higher levels or outside the school system Implications for all front-line innovators 6

7 Questioning the transformational teacher fable Required work effort and impact on personal life Downplaying political/organizational skill and overemphasizing classroom teaching Examples from Freedom Writers: Real story about Miep Gies’s visit, Gruwell’s connections and student visit to Steven Spielberg 7

8 Counter fables Dead Poets’ Society (1989): teacher inspires students but lacks clear goal, repressive prep school fires teacher (set in a prep school) Half-Nelson (2007): teacher is crack cocaine user, student helps him score, teacher forced to go on leave Cheaters (2000): teacher coaches academic decathlon team from poor Chicago school, team cheats, wins, confesses, teacher disciplined but students survive: but is cheating wrong? 8

9 More counter-fables The History Boys (2004): two teachers in a Northern England high school prepare students for Oxford, Cambridge exams, demise of one teacher Entre les Murs (2008): high school teacher working-class Paris fails to inspire immigrant students, causes demoralizing in-class confrontation with students 9

10 Educational Reform Initiatives Lots of foundation interest (Gates Foundation, NY hedge fund managers) Charter schools (publicly-funded, open-enrollment outside regular system, educational philosophy, accountable for results) Coalition for Essential Schools (projects) Knowledge is Power (hard work, testing) Better teachers: Teach for America Better principals: New Leaders for New Schools 10

11 Guggenheim as policy advocate Critic of teachers’ unions and tenure, weed out the worst performers, pay for performance Supporter of charter schools Additional funding for education, whether for charter schools or public schools Supports testing as a measure of performance of school system Opponent of streaming in school system 11

12 Narrative techniques Stories evoke sympathy: children struggling for competence, sweetness and no attitude; parents struggling for their kids (generativity) Difficult lives, randomness of lotteries (narrative arc) Visuals up close and personal, use of music Demonization: Randi Weingarten and teachers’ unions Heroes: school reformers (Rhee, Canada, Kamras) Academic analysts (Hanushek, Matthews, Alter) Vintage documentaries, Superman episodes Cartoons and charts 12

13 Geoffrey Canada Came from ghetto background, knows and sympathizes with students Humility: admits his youthful attitude and mistakes Bold: Harlem charter school Innovative: comprehensive support network for students from birth Enthusiasm for his work: charisma Turned down offer to be NYC schools chancellor 13

14 Michelle Rhee Middle class background (father doctor), private school, Cornell University, Harvard MPP 3 years Teach for America, disaster then improved Founded New Teacher Project in 1997, recruited, trained 23K teachers => educational entrepreneur DC schools chancellor: too ambitious a reform agenda? Too aggressive? Too high-profile, e.g. firing of a principal taped 2010: Mayor Fenty defeated, Rhee resigned Students First: non-profit political advocacy organization Controversies about fudging data (personal, schools) 14

15 Policy Critiques Canada’s program provides social services from birth, has $100M private funding: hard to replicate If the problem is poverty, schools only part of the answer The best 20 % of charter schools oversubscribed and hold lotteries, what about the others? The most ambitious parents enter lotteries, considerable attrition from best charter schools Teacher pouring knowledge into students’ skulls: simplistic teacher-centred model of education Test scores taken as indicator of performance of entire system, Emily story a critique of use of test scores 15

16 Next Week Discussion of individual narrative assignment View The Social Network, excellent supplemental material on visuals, post-production, and score Why was Zuckerberg so successful? Were the claims of the Winkelvossi and Eduardo Saverin against Zuckerberg justified? Is The Social Network heroic or ironic (in terms of four- quadrant model)? Is The Social Network sexist? 16


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