I love my classes so far, and I particularly am enjoying Education Policy, which is a course I’m taking at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (which we lovingly refer to as “HGSE,” pronounced HUGS-SEE). I feel like as I have been working in the youth development field, I have been working under many assumptions about our education system and how it is failing our students. Because of this class, I am actually getting a better understanding of the history of education in our country and I can pinpoint to some of the biggest and most pervasive issues that have caused and are still causing educational inequity.
And I wonder how our society will react to the upcoming alarmist (or what I assume will be alarmist) education documentary, “Waiting for ‘Superman‘“, which has gotten a lot of buzz recently. If you haven’t heard about it, you can view/read more here, here, and here. In short, this documentary has the potential to do for education reform what “An Inconvenient Truth” did for the Global Warming debate — stir up conversations and catalyze action. On a surface level this will be very positive forÂ the education reform movement, and I predict that it will galvanize our communities and nation toward the movement. However, I am worried that because there are so many policy issues and that the true societal issues run deeper than just education, we may be missing the point. “The gap between beliefs and actions not only leads to contention and confusion, it also generates policies that are irrational in the sense that they are inconsistent with evidence of what works or are not based on any evidence at all.” (Hochschild and Scovronick)
Will this latest reaction from the documentary just be the next short-term fad? How can we capture this impending moment and truly galvanize people toward fighting for long-term results? We keep talking about how institutions (healthcare, school districts, housing, employment, etc.) need to come in, support the issues, and fix the problem. I am starting to get more clarity around where and how reform can most effectively be made, and that seems to be at the local level. My hunch is that until we can reinvigorate the culture of under-resourced communities, we’ll just be pouring money into a black hole. In addition to partnering with these important institutions, we need to take a multi-pronged approach to empower the people that actually live in the communities: with consistent and high quality education for the youth, economic opportunities for employment/capital/venture funding for the adults, and healthcare and housing opportunities for all.