12 Most Frustrating Moments of “Waiting for Superman”

Josh Eidelson

- The way Davis Guggenheim used the kids’ stories. Each of the kids was sympathetic, and they dramatized the deep inequality of opportunity in America. But neither the kids nor their parents got much chance to talk about what they thought would make their school better or worse. Instead we got Guggenheim intoning that if this girl didn’t get into a charter school, her life would basically be hopeless. If Guggenheim believes that these kids are suffering because too many of their teachers should be fired but won’t be, why not let the kids say so? If he believes these kids are suffering because teachers or administrators have low expectations for them, why not let the kids say that? And if the kids instead talked about classes that were too big, or teachers that were overwhelmed or undertrained, or being hungry in class, that would have been interesting too.

- Something that sounded like Darth Vader’s Imperial March played over slow motion shots of Democrats appearing with members of teachers’ unions. This was especially agitating watching the movie as the Governor of Wisconsin is trying to permanently eliminate teachers’ bargaining rights in the name of closing a deficit he created with corporate tax cuts.

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A Prevention Model for Reducing the Federal Debt While Doing Social Good

Neil Wollman

The growing federal debt has become such a looming problem that President Obama appointed a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to tackle it. So far, the public discourse has focused on two painful but seemingly necessary solutions — raising taxes and cutting current government programs. If instead, far more funds were put toward preventing problems before they arise, future spending would be reduced, along with the need for as many tax hikes and program cuts. This prevention model is primarily associated with health care (it is cheaper to prevent than treat an illness), but it could be applied across diverse budget sectors. What if all budget administrators were instructed to consider funding preventive measures that might save money in the future? Here are some examples.

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Major Global Crises Call for Psychologists to Take the Stage

Gloria Gordon

For several years I have kept a folder on my computer desktop for items relating to my admittedly grandiose plan to deliver a jolt to human behavior experts in the U.S. that will focus their attention on the planetary crises we face in this era.

In sorting through the contents of the folder I find that among its 684 documents there appear two categories of useful files. One set features authorities talking/writing about Big Problems predicted to hit home in the coming decade or two (climate change, economic disaster, global violence, food and water shortage). What is special about these files is that, in the midst of their analyses, these authorities toss in an explanatory mental/emotional cause.

Some examples: when the economy crashes, they throw human greed into their comments; when climate change is featured in the news Al Gore points to emotion-driven thinking habits that we have slipped into since television became a dominant part of our culture; recently James Cameron, director of the film Avatar, tells us that we humans are in denial about the seriousness of the way we have degraded the environment–and that our denial is caused by our fear of the huge mess the planet is in and the dangers that lie ahead: food and water shortage, displaced populations, disease, world violence.

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Is Parents’ Rally in Boston a Harbinger of Wider Protests?

Stephen Soldz

rallyIn Boston today we had 700 or so parents rallying at the State House and lobbying the legislature to protest the budget cuts that threaten to do serious damage to public education in the city. The rally had an amazing energy, as parents throughout the city sacrificed their lunch hour to protest.

The movement started among parents at Boston Latin School, an elite “exam school,” with many middle-class parents. BLS was originally scheduled for an 18% budget cut, which would remove all music, physical education, and many Advanced Placement classes, while replacing one subject with yet another study hall each day.

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