A Reflection on Our Education System
I never realized how privileged I am until today after the viewing of the documentary, Waiting for Superman. It is hard to write this paper as of now because there are so many emotions. To be honest, I went to see the film as a replacement for my CCSJ staff meeting. I had no intention to stay long but only for an hour. But after just a few moments, I knew that I could not leave and did not want to leave. There is simply so much to learn, to absorb and to reflect on.
I cannot help but keep repeating to myself just how privileged and spoiled I am. Yes, spoiled, a word that I would never use to describe myself. But after the film, after seeing each child’s life, I am spoiled. I went to Wellesley High School in Wellesley Massachusetts, an incredibly prestigious and competitive school. It ranks 70th among the nation’s best public schools. It provided me four academically challenging and enriched years.
Looking at the kids in the film, I could not help but tear up. Anthony, Daisy, Emilie, Bianca, Francisco, and many others could not just fight to get into a high school like mine. Their destiny, their education, the only ticket out of their current life, all depends on luck! How absurd! They all depend on a lottery system that sometimes picked 110 out of 455, while other times selected just 35 out of 767. Their parent’s faces were hard to watch after their kids are being denied of what should be a right. Until today, I have never heard of the lottery system. In my opinion, it is such a tease! It is as if saying, “You can come and have a great education but here is the catch.” I know that my parents did and are still doing everything they could to put my brother and I through college. That every parent would if they had the means and the material. As the chancellor of the D.C. school system, Michelle Rhee, said “at the end of the day, it is not about the kids [even though it absolutely should be], it is about the adults”. The very people who claim to change and help the kids are cheating on them.
This week’s reading ties beautifully and closely into the film, Waiting for Superman. All three poems, “The Video” by Fleur Adcock, “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, and “(Untitled)” by Peter Meinke, explore the intricate relationship between the parents and the children. They offer a progression in which the parents progress from being happy to regretful. “My Papa’s Waltz” relates the most to the documentary. Anthony, a fifth grader in one of the struggling schools in the country, lost his father to drug addiction. Although the film never indicates how he is treated by his father, one could not help but wonder what would have happened if his father was still present. Additionally, Anthony’s love and longing for his father is in sync with the tone of the poem. Although, in both situations, the feeling is mostly sad, the underlying love cannot be ignored. The poem is written in couplets to further develop the tone of the poem. However, line 11, “at every step you missed”, misfits the rhyme yet it fits the line perfectly because it is missed. This can be connected to Anthony, whom after the death of his father, was held back one grade. At the very end of the film, after being accepted to one of the few public boarding schools in the country, Antony places one and only one picture on his wall. In the picture were him and his father.
Just like “My Papa’s Waltz” implies what would have happened to Anthony if his father was still alive, I would like to think “(Untitled)” is what Anthony’s father would have said to him looking back at his non model like actions; except it is spoken through Anthony or the author. The poem is in free verse and only has two sentences. Yet it is to the point: it is full of regret, care, and hope. The final line in which the number 11 is written in Roman numeral looks like two people standing right next to each other. It symbolizes how the father will forever be with his son. However, the line ends short compared to other lines; just like Anthony has lost his father at a young age. Interestingly enough, Anthony is also eleven years old.
Similar to the older sister in “The Video”, Bianca’s mom, a struggling single parent who is determinant to put her through private school, also wishes that her daughter was not born. She said in the documentary how she never wanted to have kids because she knows how hard life is especially for the people living close to the poverty line.
While all three poems carry a gloomy tone, they do offer some hope just like in the documentary. For those who were lucky enough to win the lottery they will sure treasure this once-a-life-time opportunity. For those who received the short end of the stake (again), are still hopeful and determined to beat the odds and the system.