What’s Kickin’ Blog
Fran Kick, M.A. Educational Psychology, CSP

No Textbook Answers, No Waiting For Superman

The Kettering Foundation released the full-length web version of No Textbook Answer: Communities Confront the Achievement Gap. The film highlights eight communities who were tired of waiting for Superman and came together to make a difference.

FYI: According to the Kettering Foundation, the film’s name actually came from one of its main findings – that there is no textbook answer that will fix all schools and all students.

FYI: This film’s title came while interviewing Geoffrey Canada when he recalled being told for the very first time (as a child by his mother) that Superman was not real and feeling scared because there was nobody to save him.

To be clear, neither of these 2010 documentary films offer any explicit silver-bullet answers to “fixing our schools.” But to be honest, neither of these films purport to do so. It would also be foolish to suggest that either one of them offers a valid comprehensive analysis of the current U.S. public educational system – by simply following several students through their community’s version of a school system. Yet after viewing both, I was struck by the different emotional responses created by each film. “Waiting for Superman” left me seriously concerned and depressed. “No Textbook Answer” left me seriously concerned and hopeful.

That’s because “Waiting For Superman” leaves viewers with an implicit message to “demand change.” While “No Textbook Answer” leaves viewers with the inspiration to start their own “kitchen-table conversations,” back-yard, neighbor-to-neighbor, deliberation. Asking themselves and others these three questions:

  • Are my kids and my community facing this problem?
  • What could we do about it?
  • Who can help?

When citizens in a community engage in these tough questions having crucial conversations via real-world authentic deliberation, they’re taking an important step towards creating the kind of public-building work that sustains our democracy. As David Matthews states in his book Reclaiming Public Education, “communities don’t have to do anything outside the ordinary – they just have to do the ordinary in different ways.”

When people work as a public, they name problems, frame issues, and make decisions in ways that empower them to act collectively.

—David Mathews, The Kettering Foundation

Perhaps the biggest lesson in watching both films back-to-back is that life isn’t just a lottery, it’s a series of choices and actions that we the people ultimately make individually and collectively to improve our lives and our world.

  • By Fran Kick
  • |February 4, 2012
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