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Learning Curve

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Stop waiting; become Superman

I haven't blogged about the new documentary, "Waiting for Superman," because I haven't yet seen it. But I know from what I've read and heard that it's another of those terrible-urban-schools-we've-got-to-do-something stories. I suspect that many people like those stories because they affirm the decisions they've made to send their own children to suburban or private schools.

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute offers the best takeaway on the documentary I've seen yet:

"Davis Guggenheim starts his film by driving by inner-city public schools to which he couldn't imagine sending his offspring. But if he and his friends all made a collective decision to send their kids to such schools, they would improve overnight. ...

"But let's face it, reformers: As long as we're working to fix the schools of other people's children, we're only going to get so far. An Inconvenient Truth inspired people to vote for environmentally-friendly candidates, but it also motivated (some) people to ditch their cars, consume less energy, and change their lifestyles. The education corollary is simple, Davis: Stop at the closest public school, fix it up, and send your kid there."

Amen. President Obama could do more for public education than Michelle Rhee or any other reformer out there if he would have sent his daughters to the D.C. schools and then worked as a parent to demand they -- and all of their classmates -- receive the best education possible. As long as parents with the time, money and know-how to insist on good schools send their kids elsewhere, urban schools are going to struggle.

Parents don't have to look have to look at it as a charitable act to support urban schools by sending their children there. As someone who made that decision, I can attest to the fact that my college-age sons benefited from their experience with classmates whose parents came from Vietnam, Mexico, Lebanon and elsewhere. Nothing I taught them about poverty or racial tolerance could compare with the experience of attending an economically and racially diverse school.

You don't have to be Superman to insist that all kids deserve good schools.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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