Waiting for “Superman” details the mis-education of the nation

By Donavee Chappell
Originally posted 10/21/2010

The Mis-education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson, first published in 1933, explained the vicious circle that results from mis-educated individuals graduating and then proceeding to teach and mis-educate others. But the book is by no means a study in negation. The author goes to great lengths in tracing the historical foundations of the problem, its development, and its influence on interpersonal relations and historical scholarship. Numerous other scholars now follow its example.

The youth of the Black race were Woodson’s particular concern because he recognized that it was with the boys and girls that mis-education began, later crystallizing into deep-seated insecurities and interracial antagonisms.

All of these factors have been discussed over and over in the immediate past by historians, sociologists, psychiatrists and laymen, but Dr. Woodson, and a pitifully small number of others, had pointed the way a full generation earlier.

Now that mis-education affects all races in the United States, there is a huge outcry for education reform. At a recent screening of the documentary Waiting for ”Superman,” this writer asked the audience had they ever heard of The Mis-education of the Negro. Out of around 200 people only three raised their hands.

The director of the film, Davis Guggenheim, was at the screening. He thanked me for my comment and said, ”People need to know about the history of these problems, Black or White.”

Waiting for ”Superman” focuses on the failures of the American public school system and issues a call for a movement for widespread change.

”I have spoken to politicians and educators alike and…I have seen the worst schools in the country making miraculous changes in the quality of education and the lives of our kids,” asserted Guggenheim, the Oscar-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth.

What does it take to make the changes he witnessed at successful schools? ”Unwavering commitment, and a sensitivity to the issues that plague the poorest people and communities,” Guggenheim answered.

He went on to say, ”The politicians don’t hold the key — the communities do, and the politicians are in the way [of] true progress. We will not be able to get it done on a grand scale unless the people get involved in the politics of education. We must get involved in our schools and demand change from each other and the powers that be, and without question it can be done.

“As much as politicians, reformers and the press know what some of these real problems are, they don’t talk enough about them,” Guggenheim claimed, “because they’re politically deadly. But the only way we’re going to address this crisis is if these uncomfortable truths are spoken out loud. And the only person who can do that right now is someone independent of the system, like maybe a documentary filmmaker.”

Waiting for “Superman” is in theaters now and could be considered a must-see for teachers, parents, politicians and students alike.

Donavee Chappell welcomes reader responses to dchappell@spokesman-recorder.com.