According to a movie and book that came out in 2010, everyone is Waiting For Superman.
That would be the heroic, miraculous, too-good-to-be-true school that will swoop down into even the worst neighborhoods and rescue all those bad-luck kids.
Me, I’m not counting on Superman. Public schools are too weird. The Man of Steel will look foolish fighting to the death against silly putty.
To speak truth about this demented demimonde, we need a voice, a mind, a way of thinking as deranged as the system itself.
We need Lewis Black. You know him, of course. He’s the quintessential angry comic. On stage he appears to be having a seizure. His hands tremble upward in gestures of helpless rage. Spit seems to fly from his mouth as he hurls bombs made of bitterness. It’s easy to imagine him chomping off these insults:
“KIDS CAN’T READ THEIR DIPLOMAS. THEY CAN’T FIND THIS COUNTRY ON A MAP. YOU’RE TEACHING THEM WHAT?? NO, YOU’RE TEACHING THEM NOTHING. YOU ARE KEEPING THEM EMPTY-HEADED. AND STUFFING THEM IN A DEEP HOLE AND PAVING IT OVER WITH ASPHALT MADE FROM CHOPPED UP ENCYCLOPEDIAS. AND WHAT’S THAT YOU’RE SAYING TO THEM?? BYE-BYE, SUCKERS!!!”
Here he might shake and shudder all over, a trademark gesture of disgust. Lewis Black–his style, his comedy, the way his mind functions–is the perfect counterpoint to the bogosity shown by our Education Establishment. There are many thousands of these so-called experts, all gaudily festooned with degrees and titles. But Lewis Black could be their avenging-angel equal:
“YOU ASK ME, KIDS MUST KNOW THE NAMES OF THE OCEANS. BUT NOOOO. OUR SUPERINTENDENTS AND PRINCIPALS ASK WHY, WHY WOULD CHILDREN NEED SUCH INFORMATION?? WELLLLL, HOW ABOUT BECAUSE THEY ARE HUMAN. THEY ARE ALIVE!!!!!!!. BECAUSE KIDS ARE NOT VEGETABLES. NOT TOMATOES GROWING ON A VINE. THEY ARE THE FUTURE OF THE COUNTRY. AND THEY DON’T KNOW THE NAMES OF THE OCEANS THAT WASH AGAINST OUR SHORES. BLA-BLA-BLANKETTY-BLAH.”
Lewis Black doesn’t look healthy. He’s been on dark journeys to hell and back. He probably smokes and drinks too much. His mind has been poked and strobed by too many titanically terrible experiences. But now he’s back from the dread, to tell us the low-down on our intellectual slow-down:
“THIS BOY IS IN COLLEGE. HE’S IN A FRATERNITY. HE HAS A DRIVER’S LICENSE AND OWNS A CAR AND CAN VOTE. BUT HE CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT 6 x 7 IS. WHERE’S A CALCULATOR??? HE’S IN SCHOOL 12 YEARS BEFORE COLLEGE. HE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT 6 X 7 IS! THINK ABOUT THIS FOR THREE SECONDS AND YOUR EYES WILL ROLL LIKE CHERRIES IN A SLOT MACHINE. SON-OF-A-BARBIE DOLL!”
Now his own eyes are rolling, side to side, then back in his head. Black will probably topple over and flatline on the stage. No, he rights himself as he gazes almost idiotically at the audience. Assembling, as if they were a giant jigsaw puzzle, his thoughts. His head twitches on an unsteady stalk. His whole body spasms with indignation, like some Manhattan cabbie cursing a dumb-ass tourist:
“I HAVE TO TELL YOU, ALL THIS CRAPADODDLEDO ABOUT HOW TO FIX THE SCHOOLS?…SOMEBODY IS LAUGHING AT YOU. THE KIDS CAN’T COUNT. THEY CAN’T READ. BUT SOMEHOW IT’S ALWAYS SOMEBODY ELSE’S FAULT. NOT THE PEOPLE RUNNING THE SCHOOLS. NOT ONE BIT. THEY JUST PULL ALL THE STRINGS, WRITE ALL THE LAWS, CREATE ALL THE POLICIES. BUT SOMEHOW YOU KNOW WHOSE FAULT IT IS, SOME NICE WELFARE MOTHER IN QUEENS. IT’S ALL HER FAULT. IT’S SOME EIGHT-YEAR-OLD’S FAULT BECAUSE HE PLAYED A VIDEO GAME. SURE IT IS!”
Now Black is pacing like a tiger on meth, ten steps to our left, eight steps back the other way. Can he hold himself together? Will he explode like that can’t-stop-eating guy in Monty Python? Pieces of Lewis Black ten rows out, but people are screaming with joy!!
“THESE KIDS CAN’T READ A CEREAL BOX. THEY CAN’T READ A SIGN ON THE STREET. WHO THE HELL IS IN CHARGE OF READING??? THE ADDAMS FAMILY? F TROOP? PEOPLE WHO WANT TO PULL THE SWITCH ON DEATH ROW, BUT CAN’T PASS THE IQ TEST???? WHO IS IN CHARGE OF READING? TRUMP HAS A LOVE NOTE FOR YOU. READY? YOU’RE FIRED.”
Now Black is making noises like a venting whale. Good, he’s not exploding after all. Oooops, but he is going to projectile-vomit on the people in the front row. Ohmiiigod…At the last second he pulls back from the abyss and demands to know:
“IS IT THE FAULT OF THE PARENTS? OF COURSE IT IS! ESPECIALLY THOSE PARENTS WHO ARE GUILTY OF WANTING THEIR KIDS TO KNOW HOW TO READ AND COUNT. THE UNGRATEFUL BASTARDS!!!! THEY DON’T APPRECIATE THE POINT OF BEING DUMBED DOWN. THESE STUPID MIDDLEBROW PARENTS WANT THEIR KIDS TO KNOW THE NAMES OF THE OCEANS. WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH THEM??”
Lewis Black is shaking all over, flinching, twisting, turning 180 degrees at a jerk. He advances to the front of the stage, a crazed Old Testament prophet. Surely he is going to put a curse on the world. It’s the worst of times and the worst of times, and Black knows why:
“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU DUMB SCHMUCKS? THEY ARE PLAYING YOU FOR CHUMPS. THEY SHOWED YOU A CAR THAT WON’T RUN AND YOU BEGGED TO PAY $80,000 FOR IT. YOU’LL BE PAYING FOR IT UNTIL YOU DIE. YOUR KIDS WILL BE PAYING FOR IT UNTIL THEY DIE…
“I HEARD WE NEED VOLUNTEERS FOR A NEW COLONY ON MARS. I VOLUNTEER THE PEOPLE RUNNING OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM. OFF THEY GO! BYE-BYE! DON’T BOTHER US ANYMORE. WE’LL LET YOU KNOW WHEN YOU CAN COME BACK. GROUND CONTROL TO WORLD CLASS TWITS. YOU WANT SOME MORE KIDS TO MESS UP, FIND THEM ON MARS. HAHA.”
Bruce Deitrick Price is an author, artist, poet, and education reformer. For savvy analysis of education issues, see his site Improve-Education.org. All portions of the fictional scenario starring Lewis Black are by Price. (Price is also waiting for Denis Leary, Chris Rock, Carlos Mencia, and Bobby Collins, for a start.)