For many American children, the key to a good education -- and a decent future as a productive adult -- is a crap shoot. Or more precisely, a slim chance in a lottery with those Bingo balls. That's the achingly sad visual that runs through the much-talked-about new movie, Waiting for 'Superman.'
The timing of its release couldn't be better -- education is the hot-button topic for the November elections. In addition to the "Superman" movie, NBC aired its Education Nation Summit last week and President Obama, who was interviewed by Matt Lauer, lamented that there's no question that the education his kids get at the most noted private school in Washington, D.C., is better than what most public school children in the nation's capital get.
While that discussion is going on, the so-called "mama grizzly" candidates are on different pages about how public schools should be funded and who should be in charge of creating curricula so our kids won't lag so far behind most other developed countries (can you say 25 out of 30 in developed nations for math?).
There's plenty of agreement that our schools have problems that can't be fixed overnight, but I worry that if public school education becomes the next political football, we all lose. And it's not just whether we disagree on designing curricula or teachers' unions. We could use a little more focus on what's going into our kids' textbooks and who gets to have that say.
Academics? Teachers? School administrators?
For a vast majority of textbooks all over the country, it's a handful of conservative elected politicians on the Texas State Board of Education who decide what your kids will learn. They've been busy this year upping the Christian content and taking out references to Islam, as well as making sure that white historical role models get a higher profile with our kids than people of color.
Surprised they have so much sway? Don't be -- publishers cater to them because Texas is one of the largest, and most vocal, purchasers of textbooks. So if you want to stay in business as a textbook publisher, you've got to make the clients happy.
And the clients aren't our kids.
I'm not sure even Superman can take on all the issues we face to put our schools back on a better track for everyone's children. For that, we need more than just Superman. We might just need the whole Justice League.
Image via Waiting for Superman