From the community: Film presents controversial perspective on education
December 2, 2010 · Updated 12:04 PM
By SHANNON FLORA
For The Beachcomber
“Waiting for Superman” has become one of the most controversial and acclaimed films of 2010. Islanders will have an opportunity next week to view the film and listen to a panel discussion afterwards. This showing will be the first presentation in a new parent film series presented by Vashon PTSA and the Vashon Theatre.
The documentary, directed by Academy Award-winner Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”), takes an unflinching look at the struggling U.S. school system and has been met with both high praise and criticism. The film won the Audience Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and has been featured in many media outlets, including Time magazine and CBS news.
Vashon Theatre has landed the film for a short run, and Vashon PTSA will host a special showing and the panel discussion that will follow.
On the panel will be Scott Allen, the president of the Washington State PTA; Leanne Hawkins, the Region 6 legislative chair of the Washington State PTA; Deborah Salas, executive director of Community Schools Collaboration; Alma Villegas, the Seattle Director of the national advocacy group STAND for Children and a representative from the Washington Education Association. The discussion will be moderated by Island attorney and former Vashon-Maury Island Community Council president Craig Beles.
While the U.S. government has madated that no child be left behind, this film suggests the United States has slipped to the near bottom in math and reading skills when compared to other advanced countries. The film puts faces to the statistics as it follows five children hoping to win a lottery that could propel them out of their failing schools and into a charter school with limited spots available. These families perceive the charter school as their child’s only chance for success — the only escape from poverty or a life of crime.
PTSA President Lauri Hennessey said the movie has become a hot-button for teachers, parents and child advocates.
“We have a tight community. We believe it is incumbent upon the PTSA to gather people so we can view the movie, hear the facts and have a discussion together. We wanted to create that opportunity, and it is no surprise that our fantastic Vashon Theatre is giving us a way to do that,” she said.
The film’s inter-related stories include profiles of education innovators and reformers, including David Levin and Mike Feinberg of KIPP Schools; Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Michelle Rhee, former superintendent of the Washington D.C. school district who made news most recently when she resigned from her position.
Admission to the film is regular matinee prices. The next film in this series will be “Race to Nowhere,” a documentary that examines the testing culture in U.S. schools. The screening is being planned for early 2011. Updated information about the film series will be posted at www.vashonptsa.org.
— Shannon Flora is a member of the Vashon Island School District special education advisory committee and the Vashon PTSA board.
“Waiting for Superman” will be shown at 3:30 p.m. with the panel discussion following at 5:10 on Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Vashon Theatre.