Tuesday, January 4, 2011

“Waiting for Superman”

This is my first of several short blogs on the new film documentary, “Waiting for Superman”. This film dramatically tells the story of how so many children are being left behind in the public education system. It sounds the alarm for radical change. American students rank below most industrialized countries in everything, but confidence.

Bad schools contribute to bad neighborhoods, Dropouts and other students with poor reading and math skills are early predictors for who will end up in prisons.

The movie allows viewers to follow several families in their quest to get the best education for their children.

Some schools are better than others. For many who are not wealthy, hope lies in being picked by lottery to attend a public charter school.

School unions, ineffective teachers, and what is described as an outdated approach by American schools, constitute the problem.

The movie made me weep even though there are some signs of hope.

Here is what I believe:
• Good teachers can and do change lives.
• In our country those who can afford choices usually opt to move to communities with the best schools or pay for private education.
• Our system of education is based on a model that few have choices, many have a chance, and thousands are left behind.

What role do you think Christians have in responding to this national crisis?


  1. I believe this is an important movie for people in the church and beyond to see and to think about. Faith communities have long been on the cutting edge of educational change, whether during the Sunday School movement, in starting colleges or in pre-schools and before/after school programs. With all the talent within United Methodist Churches, it seems we again need to step up and ask ourselves how we can push innovation and help close the achievement gap. The problems are many, but the potential solutions are many as well and each of us can play a small role.

  2. I firmly believe that organizations such as the United Methodist Church have an exciting opportunity to respond to this crisis. What if my local UMC were to purchase a small elementary school in a failing neighborhood which my community school board intended to close for lack of funds and poor enrollment, and used that building, to provide a better education for that neighborhood's children than they could otherwise have? What if my local UMC partnered with struggling schools to provide volunteer mentors and classroom assistants, tutors and off campus computer labs, providing extra presence and participation in the lives of children? What if my local UMC pledged to provide licensed volunteers to administer GED courses in prisons, jails, and to teenage parents who missed out on high school graduation? What if my local UMC organized UMW and UMM circles to provide faith partners for sharing the burdens of peer pressure, economic scarcity and family chaos with school-aged children? What if my local UMC committed to fostering community action groups for students that focus their energies for change into creative, rather than destructive accomplishments? What if my local UMC decided to give a children's book to every new parent in it's local area, along with the pledge to help that child learn to read?

    I am ready and willing to try.

  3. Hillcrest Family Services, a mision of the IAUMC since 1914, has been providing special education services to some of the most needy, vulnerable, abused, and impoverished students in Iowa since 1988. These services include a 130 student school in Dubuque with residents and students from all over Iowa, and satellite schools in Maquoketa and Monticello Iowa and Thomson Illinois. We support the efforts to improve educational outcomes and welcome our partners in the IAUMC to join us in prayer, ideas, and financial support in providing health and education ministries to the children of Iowa. For more information you can contact me at gary.gansemer@hillcrest-fs.org

  4. For the last six months we have been meeting with the administrators of our local middle school seeking to build a cooperative program which will enable the young people to succeed--working with the school, supporting the school, cooperating with the school. We have found the response from the teachers and administrators to be great--they welcome our help and know their students need the support of their community. Thank you Bishop for noting that many children don't have a choice or a chance because schools and teachers are not supported and valued as they should be. Every church can help--and the most help is needed where children are being left behind, mostly in our poverty areas--rural and urban.