The American School System: In Need Of Change

1161 words - 5 pages

A child’s first day of school is often viewed as a rite of passage; the first step on the road to a happy and successful life. This is true for most children from affluent families who live in the best school districts or can afford expensive private schools. But what if a child’s first day of school is nothing more than the first step on the road to poverty and possibly even illiteracy? The documentary Waiting for “Superman” addresses many issues in a failing school system and the innocent children that system leaves behind. Although the documentary spends little time suggesting parents’ roles in their children’s education, it clearly shows that we must make changes to help children from low-income families and improve the teacher’s unions.
Although our school system is in need of change, the film did not consider the part parental involvement plays in education, a drawback of the film. Education spending in our country has more than doubled in recent decades, but children in most states have proficiency rates of only 20 or 30 percent in math and reading (Weber 6). One must wonder if, with all of this extra spending and consistently low test scores, the problem goes beyond the school system and into American families. After all, even with small class sizes, the amount of one-on-one attention is limited for each student. Isn’t it up to parents to push their children to succeed? Amy Chua, author of the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother uses an almost militant form of parenting which – though highly controversial – demands nothing short of excellence from her children. While other children were allowed to ride their bikes or play video games with their friends, Chua demanded that her seven-year-old daughter practice the piano for hours on end until she has mastered a particularly difficult piece. While some may view such treatment as hard and possibly even abusive, Chua insists that she is simply preparing her children to excel in school and beyond. As she explains in her book, many Asian families do not approve of numerous aspects of Western parenting, for example, “how much time Westerners allow their kids to waste – hours on Facebook and computer games – and in some ways, how poorly they prepare them for the future” (qtd. in Paul). While it is important for children to have sufficient free time to enjoy their youth, it is also important that parents carefully monitor what activities their children are taking part in and how those activities effect their child’s education and, therefore, their future.
However, the film accurately shows that we must develop resources to help students in low-income areas. Jeffery Canada, a Harvard-educated teacher and founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, knows first-hand the challenges children from these neighborhoods face. In an interview with Newsweek he explains the unexpected bond he shared with his under-privileged students in Boston. “They began to realize that I grew up just like they...

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