Star of “Waiting For Superman” Talks Education at Tate Lecture

March 30, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

By Meghan Garlich
mgarlich@smu.edu

Students and members of the Dallas community were warned about the severity of America’s education crisis at the SMU Tate Lecture Series Tuesday night.

The audience filled McFarlin Auditorium eager to hear Geoffrey Canada, the president of the Harlem Children’s Zone and the star of the documentary, “Waiting For Superman”, and Margaret Spellings, former U.S. Secretary of Education, discuss the future of education.

“I’m expecting to see how we’re going to address the future and how the kids in school can learn to make our country a better place,” said SMU student Robert Kupchynsky before the event.

(PHOTO COURTESY CLAYTON T. SMITH/ SMU)

After thanking the event sponsor, Omni Hotels, SMU President Gerald Turner introduced Canada, Spelling and the debate moderator, Keven Ann Willey.

The energized crowd fell silent as Willey asked Spellings to discuss the civil rights issue in America regarding education.

“The United States is losing its global competitiveness,” said Spellings, who explained that our strength as a nation starts with education for everyone, not just those who are wealthy.

Canada agreed the country no longer has its competitive edge and that more children need to graduate.

“I don’t care if you’re poor, black or Latino,” said Canada. “You need an education.”

The formerly quiet audience erupted in applause to Canada’s enthusiasm toward promoting education in America.

Willer then asked the speakers about the first step toward improvement in schools.

Spellings explained that schools need to monitor teacher performance throughout the year.

“We now have sophisticated data systems that can monitor a child’s progress,” said Spellings. “Building the right infrastructure and getting talented professionals are what make a great school.”

Canada cautioned that building an effective infrastructure is not an easy task.

“Everyday you’re going to have to be fixing and changing things,” said Canada. “If you’re not prepared to do this, nothing is going to happen.”

Murmurs of agreement echoed throughout the crowd and both speakers advised the audience to play a role in bettering America’s education systems.

“If you’re serious, it’s going to cost you,” Canada said, in reference to changing education in the Dallas Community. “The kids are in trouble.”

When a member of the audience asked how to get involved, Spellings encouraged the listeners to get involved with organizations, such as becoming a mentor for a child.

“Get smart about what the heck is going on,” added Spellings. “You can save a life.”

At the end of the interactive discussion, audience members were shocked about the education crisis at hand.

“I had no idea this was such an issue,” said SMU junior Mary Katherine Rathmell. “The lecture was very informative and we definitely need to become more innovative in our school programs.”

Kupchynsky was also convinced that changes need to be made, or else, as both speakers pointed out, the country will continue to lose its competitive edge.

“We would be mad if half of the items we use everyday didn’t work,” said Kupchynsky. “But as a whole we don’t care about half of our students failing.”