My family and I attended a showing of Waiting for Superman this past Saturday. We were underwhelmed with the attendance of only about 30 people. My husband and I sat as bookends to our two kids. He really should have sat next to me, as his constant leaning forward to get my attention with a comment was starting to bother the other viewers. He's as passionate about education as I am and with good reason. He grew up in a very low income family in a rough part of LA. His parents, like Bianca's Mom in WFS, scraped together enough money to send not one, but four kids through Catholic School in LA. Only two went on to college and only one, my husband, is a college graduate. He knows the odds and he knows the challenges. His situation is a bit reversed. He's the only white guy in his gaduating class. He and another alumnus who shares our last name is the only other non-Hispanic member of his graduating class and he's African American. For me, a graduate of the LA Unified School District who started out being educated on the East Coast in New York, the movie provided a window into a real cross-section of American education.
We watched the movie with our two kids ages 12 and 13, currently Middle Schoolers in Northern California. They cried as much as I did for the families and students who's big dreams just weren't going to make it if they had to suffer through the schools to which they were relegated. They were the only children in the theater, which tells you a little bit about what kind of activist parents John and I are. If we're going to make our world a better place for our children, our children are going to have to be a part of our efforts and they always have been.
Our own family seach for the "right education opportunity" for our children has taken us from public school, to homeschool, to private school, to "open" school, to charter school and back around to public school. We've had to transfer out of our home district to find a middle school where our children can get a decent education and not become one of the statistics presented in Waiting for Superman. When Mr. Guggenheim discussed the melt-down that occurs between fourth grade and seventh grade, my husband and I exchanged a look. We'd experienced this melt-down, however, it didn't become visible in our children until they entered seventh grade. We went through it last year with our son and are trying to navigate it this year with our daughter.
We had a very lively discussion in the car after the movie including discussing the fact that our schools stopped teaching spelling in the fourth grade and instead went to "vocabulary." I'm sorry people - if I can't spell it, it doesn't do me any good to know the meaning of a word I'll never be able to use. We've made a pact to shore up some of the holes in our children's education - as a family. We will be pulling lists of the standard "sight words" from the internet and drilling spelling of these basic words for which spelling and usage has become so deficient in our world today. We don't want our children to perform like the young adults of today who cannot speak well or express themselves adequately in writing.
I came away with a sense that our nation's children are in danger, not from terrorism, not from bigotry, not from hunger or poverty, but from illiteracy. The one thing that can lift our society up from our ignorance and fear - literacy - is gone. It is slipping from our grasp, clinging by a thread. It's time to mobilize Moms.