Waiting for Superman & Blaming Batman
With all the national attention and controversy surrounding the recently released movie Waiting for Superman, it's odd that those of us in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area who weren't part of any special early showing must wait for October 1 to see this film.
I'm looking forward to watching the movie and writing a review for next week. So while I'm Waiting for October 1, and as I see all the controversy over this film and attack on public education, I realize that although the movie title may refer to George Canada's childhood disappointment that Superman was a fictional character, today's reference and application of superheroes in education really belongs to Batman aka The Dark Knight.
Why the Dark Knight? In the movie The Dark Knight, in order to protect Gotham City, Batman willingly becomes whatever the city needs him to be. He knows he is not a hero. He can be the villain.
In the movie, Gotham City's hope for the future is in the need for regular citizens to stand up against crime. Harvey Dent, the District Attorney, rises to be that hero, but unknown to the public, ultimately becomes corrupted and is killed at the end of the movie.
Batman understands that the Gotham needs Dent's reputation as a hero to remain intact so they don't lose hope. So he takes the blame for killing Dent to hide the corruption and protect the legacy. And, in one of the more dramatic movie endings in a long time, rides away on his bat-cycle as the police pursue closely behind.
Batman, Gotham's protector, is now believed to be responsible for Dent's death and is a fugitive. Dramatic music plays, movie ends, credits roll... (movie ending is available on You Tube)
Why does Batman make this sacrifice?
As Batman explains in his deep, low, raspy voice,
"You'll hunt me. You'll condemn me. You'll set the dogs on me. Because that's what needs to happen....Because sometimes the truth is not good enough. Sometimes people deserve more.... Sometimes, people deserve to have their faith rewarded."
Rather than expose the truth that Harvey Dent, their hero district attorney, was corruptible; Batman becomes the villain to channel the anger and frustrations of a city to preserve their delicate belief in good.
With all the references of heroes in education debates, the comparison of faith versus truth is timely. Faith describes the public hope that teachers alone can overcome the effects of family, community, poverty, and society's ills.
On the other hand, understanding truth requires us to examine our social, economic, and political structures of how race, culture, wealth, and poverty interplay in public education. Understanding truth requires us to analyze our societal inequities, national priorities, and closely held political and personal beliefs. This understanding requires coming to terms with how we perceive our nation's purpose, progress, potential, and unmet promises.
Understanding this level of truth can be too uncomfortable in its harsh realities; so we rely on faith for salvation that someone can do the hard work we can't do ourselves to save us from society's deep-rooted problems.
In this debate and movie, that faith is placed in our public schools and teachers to cure society's ills.
And to have that faith rewarded, since superheroes aren't real, and teachers aren't really Dark Knights with cool gadgets to fight crime, the media and public will force teachers to play the role of Batman.