Bed-StuyBlogEducation
December 14, 2010

Waiting for Superman, Finding Ourselves

The recent news that Mayor Bloomberg offered Jeffrey Canada, the founder of the celebrated Harlem Children’s Zone, the top education gig before he settled on Cathie Black offers a glimpse into the Mayor’s mind and the current debate around education. It also is a reminder for those of us who consider ourselves members of the Central Brooklyn community that we must come to the rescue of our schools – not the chancellor, CEOs or lone principals.

Canada, a prominent figure in the documentary Waiting for Superman provides the quote that inspired the movie’s title: “One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me ‘Superman’ did not exist. She thought I was crying because it’s like Santa Claus is not real. I was crying because no one was coming with enough power to save us.”

This of course becomes the central operating metaphor for the movie which shows low-income families desperately pinning their hopes on charter schools to deliver a reprieve from the long death march that is this nation’s public school system.

Robert Townsend in Meteor Man
Robert Townsend in Meteor Man

Ironically, Mayor Bloomberg was looking for Canada, who the Mayor has said is the most important living person in New York City, to play Superman and save New York City Schools from the proverbial oncoming speeding locomotive, as students, parents and the future of our city lay helplessly across the tracks. As New Yorkers, arguing over who should be the next chancellor, we’re complicit in this fantasy. Even President Obama, desperate to find success stories and put a human face on charter-led, numbers driven school reform, has cast Canada as “the answer,” making the HCZ the model for his “Promised Neighborhoods” grant program.

The problem is that Canada, who I’ve met, worked with, and admired for almost twenty years, would probably be the first to acknowledge that he doesn’t have all the answers. And over the last years a series of studies of the Harlem Children’s Zone have found that its charter schools struggle mightily with the same issues as other urban schools. The jury is still out on how successful HCZ really is, but it important to remember that the responsibility – and consequences – for that success belongs to the people of Harlem, not just one mere mortal.

Similarly, institutions like Boys and Girls High School, which is on the state failing schools list, requires us in Central Brooklyn to not stand on the sidelines, watching the blood sport that has become public education, but to get involved. Not because Boys and Girls is a historic institution, or because it is too big to fail, but because it is where the life choices for our children either take off or get slammed to the ground.

Bernard Gassaway, the principal of Boys and Girls High School gets this. When I met with him last week he expressed how unrealistic it is to expect that he can, on his own, turn around a high school of such size and complexity as Boys and Girls, where the students enter through a metal detector, and too often carry the baggage of a failed primary school education, or a gang land existence, or struggles at home, into the classroom.

Gassaway is a leery of being viewed as a “savior,” the way iconic figures Joe Clarke and Frank Mickens, Gassaway’s predecessor at Boys and Girls, have been depicted in the past. That’s why he has reached out to the clergy and elected officials, and has hired people like Stan Kinard to coordinate community engagement for school. That’s why Gassaway and Kinard are looking for people to serve as mentors to the hundreds of students who are struggling against ruthless odds to graduate and make a living.

About this author

Mark Winston Griffith

Mark Winston Griffith

Prior to coming on staff at the Brooklyn Movement Center, Mark was on the Faculty of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and was most recently the field organizer for the MOVE NY campaign. A Central Brooklyn native, Mark Winston Griffith is the former Executive Director and Senior Fellow for Economic Justice at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, and the former co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project. In the early nineties he co-founded the Central Brooklyn Partnership and Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union. He currently serves on the boards of the Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union, Center for an Urban Future, the Center for Working Families, Little Sun People and Free Speech TV. Mark loves spending time with his family, running the streets of New York like a steeplechase, and describing how he acquired the 18 inch scar that runs the length of his spine.

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Bed-Stuy
 
Listen to Manny W. talk about how a constant police presence...
 
As I approached the corner of Throop Avenue and Van Buren...
 
On July 21st 2013 Kyam Livingston, a 37 year old African...
 
Listen to Ricky S. talk about the misplaced priorities of the...
 
Raise your hand if you’re jaded by elections. You should be....
 
Few people consider voting subversive activity. In fact, we think of...
 
  The race to represent District 36 in the NYC Council...
 
Listen to Malcolm S. talk about the various constitutional violations inherent...
 
Charla Harlow (of the Harlow Project ) was with us at the Chalk...
 
Marc K. believes the NYPD are directly targeting communities of color....
 
Listen to Michael talk about the consequences of taking a plea...
 
Listen to Miles K. talk about how angry it made him...
 
In this episode of “On The Block”, BMC sits with Chelsea...
 
Listen to Milton P. talk about being beaten ruthlessly by the...
 
Think you’re a Taboo champ? PROVE IT! Come with a team...
 
By: Kirsten John Foy Can you imagine needing a service with...
 
Last year thousands of MomsRising.org members told Governor Coumo that NY’s...
 
Natasha was on her way to the library when she was...
 
After a year of research and conversations with hundreds of local...
 
By YK Hong Dedicated to all of those who walk down...
 
By John Raskin Brooklynites are working together to win a better...
 
Oliver S. talks about racial profiling in this sound bite about...
 
Listen to Oscar C. talk about his encounters with the NYPD...
 
Listen to Paulene J. talk about the time her grandson was...
 
By: Leon Johnson As a child the primary location of refuge,...
 
By: Byron Hurt The food we eat is as critically important...
 
Listen to Ricky S. talk about the misplaced priorities of the...
 
It was a moment many had expected for years, ever since...
 
Listen to Roland L. talk about how gay and queer people...
 
Listen to Roy F. talk about how the police can get...
 
In this podcast, hear Samuel break down the real issue of...
 
Although New York City public schools progress reports for academic year...
 
By Rachel M. Kleinman & Damon T. Hewitt Each year, nearly...
 
Think Stop & Frisk is only a problem for men? Think...
 
The Brooklyn Movement Center has teamed up with the Brooklyn Community...
 
“Just because they have a badge or a uniform they think...
 
The  Center for Constituational Rights  has created a podcast of New Yorkers telling their stories...
 
This Wednesday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), fellow advocates, and...
 
Wednesday, October 3rd at 6 p.m., Executive Director, Mark Winston Griffith...
 
On this one year anniversary of the birth of Occupy Wall...
 
The security guards at New York City Hall were overwhelmed, not...
 
<a href=”http://brooklynmovementcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/dnainfo.jpg”><img class=”size-medium wp-image-409″ src=”http://brooklynmovementcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/dnainfo-300×224.jpg” alt=”Bk stoop” width=”300″ height=”224″ /></a> BK...
 
<strong>By Lindsay Kalter</strong> <a href=”http://brooklynmovementcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/photoadayintersections.jpg”><img class=”size-medium wp-image-417″ alt=”photo a day garden”...
 
On the Block with BMC is a monthly video series profiling...
 
The Brooklyn Movement Center believes everyday people are the true witnesses...
 
Are you going to be a high school junior or senior...
 
A tiny burst of energy is enough to get any ball...
 
  Please come out and check out this important film being...
 
Daily Press , a coffee shop on Franklin & Hancock in Bedford-Stuyvesant, is...
 
By Maitefa Angaza – The Pratt Center for Community Development, Pratt’s Initiative...
 
Our very own Mark Winston Griffith was on NPR with Brian...
 
Several stores in the Bed-Stuy community have a new product on...
 
Over 150 Frederick Douglass Academy IV (FDA IV) and P.S. 26 parents, alumni,...
 
Executive Director Mark Winston Griffith joined Arva Rice, the president and CEO...
 
There are a lot of reasons for Central Brooklynites to not get involved...
 
You know Mary Ward.  She is in all of our families....
 
“Get on the bus!” That was my clarion call for the past...
 
In partnership with 500 Men Making a Difference, and the administration...
 
New details are emerging on the Department of Education’s decision that...
 
After only a few short months on the job, Cathie Black...
 
They’re super schools sent to save America’s neediest children.  Or they’re...
 
Congressman Anthony Weiner recently  released a report   that found that since 2006, the...
 
The state and city budgets contain nothing but bad news for...
 
Two years ago, Boys and Girls High School got a D...
 
Today on our website, the MC’s journalism intern Patrick Wall sounds...
 
Robert G. Thompson is a multimedia journalist, writer, and filmmaker, keeping a regular...
 
“I love the concept of change. Everybody’s in favor of change....
 
Robert G. Thompson is a multimedia journalist, writer, and filmmaker, keeping a regular...
 
The District 16 Project Bed-Stuy Patch/C.Zawadi Morris November 6, 2012  ...
 
Among the many items in this week’s news, there was one...
 
When times are hard, you discover who your real friends are....
 
The recent news that Mayor Bloomberg offered Jeffrey Canada, the founder...
 
No matter who you are, no matter what you do, there...
 
It’s no secret that Central Brooklyn is a poster child for...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
Listen to Manny W. talk about how a constant police presence...