The opening scenes of the documentary Waiting For Superman depict education reformer/charter school advocate Geoffrey Canada as describing one of the saddest moments in his life. When he learned that Superman was not real, he was distraught because there was, in Canada’s words, “I was crying because there was no one coming with enough power to save us.” From his perspective, DC Comics’ Clark Kent/Superman “just shows up and he saves all the good people,” “even in the depths of the ghetto.” As a fellow comic book fan, I would have to question whether Mr. Canada knows the story of Superman, and the criticism thereof from the likes of one of his allies for justice, Black Lightning (Jefferson Davis, who, in one rendition, just so happens to be a public school principal) , who noted that Superman may be Kryptonian, but he is still white, and avoids the Suicide Slums (the poor side of town where Metropolis is).
I want to lay aside that criticism, and talk about the idea of power, and what it means in eyes of education reformers. As I quoted Mr. Canada above, he was distraught that there was no one with all of the power to save what Geoffrey Canada calls “failure factories,” or schools in predominantly impoverished neighborhoods that primarily feed the community drop-outs and/or felons, and yes these are communities that are of predominantly black and Latin@ American populations. These “failure factories” are what stifle economic growth, deprive corporations of an educated workforce, and communities of stability. From the perspective of philanthropists such as Bill Gates (from the documentary and his history of being active in the Education Reform movement), children receiving education is for the purpose of the workforce, so that multinational corporations can keep up with global competition. In Waiting For Superman, the topic of power is not discussed again until we see education reformer/charter school advocate Michelle Rhee at work, who was given “broad powers” to make sweeping changes. The issue of power is an interesting topic, and to see it discussed explicitly in these two instances are what caught my attention. Where does power come from? Who has it? What does it look like?
For the rest of the essay, please go read Waiting For Krypton: Race, Ableism and Education Reform