Indianapolis may be leading the country in Waiting for "Superman" viewing parties. And that’s a good thing. I had the opportunity last week to catch the documentary being touted as the key to pushing the education reform battle over the top.
Many of the 200-plus people at the showing I attended did appear to be genuinely moved. Moved by the story of five young students from various big cities whose fates were largely tied to whether they gained the luck of the lottery in order to enter a school that would give them a good education and a chance at a solid future. Moved by the parents who were trying any way they could to create a better life for their children. By the way, it’s not just an urban problem, but a widespread challenge that does not discriminate by locale.
The attendees asked the right questions — primarily centered around "What can we do to help, to make a difference?" — of Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett after the screening. Bennett, as always, brought passion to his remarks and guidance.
Personally, I was not really surprised by what I saw during the documentary or entirely convinced that the well-told stories would be able to live up to its savior-type hype. On reflection, I think that means I’m getting old. I’ve seen too many solid reform efforts go by the wayside, too many political fights get in the way of sound policies, too many instances of people saying the right things, but the status quo prevailing in the end.
But all hope is not lost. I understand the importance of reform and not letting thousands (not just a few) of children fall through the cracks. I do believe now, more than any other time, offers promise. Not because of the movie, but because of the leaders rallying the troops. Kudos to Bennett, to the Indianapolis Star for its focus on education and others determined to change the complacency of adults, an attitude that plagues young people now and potentially for the rest of their lives.
My advice: go see the movie if you haven’t already; check out the "Superman" web site to learn how you can help; and if you’re not convinced there is a problem in Indiana, take this five-question quiz provided by The Foundation for Educational Choice. Yes, you have to submit some contact information to get the answers, but the wake-up call is worth an e-mail or two you might receive in the future.