Saturday, October 23, 2010

School Pride. Where's the villain?

I watched the first episode of NBC's School Pride: Soaring Eagles just the other day. I guess that I shouldn't have been surprised to see a reality show filled with villains. The Eagles soaring are the students at Compton's Enterprise Middle School. The school is in horrible condition, apparently rotten underneath and within. Who is the villain responsible for this? The School Pride Team will solve the school's problem and ferret out that villain.

BTW, There is a pretty good review of the show by Carol Scott from called On NBC, Reality TV Plays Fairy Godmother To Cinderella Schools. I found that review while I was preparing to write my own. 

Since Carol is a better write than I, I will just make a few points:
  • To get the students outside for the opening rally, they PULL THE FIRE ALARM! Isn't that illegal in California? Don't we want children to know that the fire alarm is ONLY for real emergencies. Oh, I get it...
  • The show takes place over ten days. My thought early on was what would happen once NBC leaves.
  • I was pleased that they used a local contractor for some of the work. 
  • Unlike most of the national discussion right now, School Pride made no effort to blame the teachers. In fact, the two teachers shown most are clearly all-stars. Heroes even.
  • The district director of facilities is portrayed as a kind and overwhelmed man. A good guy, but no hero.
  • The first mention of the principal comes at about 23 minutes. "Even the principal is helping" was how they introduced him. Only later in the show, do they reveal the principal as the enemy. They wonder at the state of the school, "How he's allowed this to happen?" Sure, the problems of Enterprise Middle School and the Compton Schools lay squarely on this principal. He may have hoarded supplies (although most of that story is untold). Our first villain.
  • Fortunately, the team leader got the principal to give out construction paper to any teacher that wants it. That will solve a lot. 
  • "Who is accountable?" They go straight to the top in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold has few answers, but lots of platitudes. Maybe he will be another villain.
  • English teacher Ms. Mason is thrilled with her new classroom, especially the bookshelves. I hope that the minute the cameras left, Ms. Mason filled the walls once again with student work so that it looks like a live classroom.
  • While it is great for large corporations to donate goods to a needy public school, I am left uncomfortable with the "Microsoft Science and Technology Center," the "People Magazine Reading Room," and the "Starter Athletic Complex." I am left thinking about Education Nation and the drive for privatization favored by so many involved in today's education reform. A public school should not have to give out naming rights to get what its kids deserve.
  • The students, teachers and the facilities director are shown in a good light. Governor Schwarzenegger is redeemed by coming to the school to say "Pump you up" and "I'll be back." 
  • The students are told it is, "Up to you to maintain your school. Maintain your pride." Thankfully, NBC was there to give them their pride in the first place.
  • That leaves only the principal as villain. I  guess all good reality shows need a villain.
  • In the epilogue, we are told that six months later test scores go up 115 points to be the best middle school in Compton. The villainous principal is replaced.
  • Not mentioned is that, according to the Reuters article listed below, last week "the school board fired the superintendent for making $14,000 in personal charges on her district credit card." Ooh, another villain.