by Max Brantley
For the school junkies this weekend, a little more fodder to indicate there is more to debate in the Billionaire Boys Club push for more charter schools, high stakes testing and other "reform" than their publicity machinery likes to acknowledge.
* A Massachusetts group has compiled some facts in response to the melodramatic documentary, "Waiting for Superman," that has become the billionaires' favorite marketing tool. It joins a long list of work debunking some of the fictionalized portrayals in the movie.
* You might also be interested in looking through a website, full of extended trailers, on another documentary, "Race to Nowhere." Says the director:
Childhood has become indentured to test scores, performance and competition. We face an epidemic of unhealthy, disengaged, unprepared kids trying to manage as best they can.
The New York Times has described the movie as something of an "alter ego" to "Waiting for Superman."
While “Waiting for Superman” lionizes urban reformers who embrace standardized testing as a necessary yardstick to hold schools and teachers accountable, [filmmaker Vicki] Ms. Abeles believes that the testing movement is what has caused education to go off the tracks.
She talks to students, teachers and experts who say that teaching to tests, including the Advanced Placement tests, narrows education and diminishes creativity and independent thinking. Employers complain that college graduates these days lack initiative. An educator, Denise Pope, a lecturer at Stanford, says that the University of California requires remedial courses of half its students, even though their high school grades were stellar.
“They’re spitting back but not retaining the information,” Dr. Pope said.