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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Beyond Superman: A Guest Blog by George Lucas

George Lucas

Filmmaker and Founder, George Lucas Educational Foundation

Twenty years ago when we started The George Lucas Educational Foundation, we thought it would be 10 years before the general public would understand that the education system was in serious need of fixing. Today, in the wake of new energy in Washington D.C., new focus in the educational and philanthropic communities, and with the recent release of the film "Waiting for Superman," the nation is getting a better picture of what is wrong with public education in America. And people are finally talking about it.

It's time to have a conversation about what's right in our schools, what's working. And as we debate what to do to fix the problems, let's remember that there are successes in education everyday we can emulate. In districts of every stripe and demographic make-up, educators are dedicating themselves to providing their students with a high quality 21st century education, and using new technologies to make it happen. They are showing kids how to find and analyze information and how to creatively deploy their analyses to solve problems. These educators are beginning to re-invent the learning process, guiding students through rigorous, real-life projects that integrate core academic topics and personalize the learning experience based on a child's strengths and weaknesses. They are building confidence and ambition in children, by supporting them emotionally and providing a safe, engaging environment to learn. Most importantly, these innovative educators are creating a next generation of citizens with academic knowledge and problem solving abilities that will serve our country for years to come.

Are there enough of these teachers and principals? No. Will the work of fixing our schools and re-inventing the learning process be long and arduous? Of course. But as we move on from the debate and get busy building a better way, let's remember that the solutions--and the people who are implementing them--are not far away. In fact, they are nearer than you think. Check out our video library for hundreds of examples.

--George Lucas, Filmmaker and Founder of the George Lucas Educational Foundation

This blog also appeared in the Huffington Post.

George Lucas

Filmmaker and Founder, George Lucas Educational Foundation
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M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

Mr. Lucas, I am glad I do not live in the fantasy world you obviously exist in with your mythical plays and heroic figures prevailing in the last reel of the moving picture. The film "Waiting for Superman" is a fraudulent depiction of the education world that would fit neatly in the Michael Moore canon of leftist propaganda films. I live in the greater Philadelphia area where some of the best and worst public schools in the nation exist. Sadly, the WFS producers only focused their view on the very worst instead of a balance of both extremes and some middle ground.

As for the worst performing public schools, the film danced around the true reason why they fail. It's not the education system, it's the culture from which these schools draw their student populations. I've taught at urban schools and the communities are mostly comprised of lawless, irresponsible, and disrespectful people who ruin it for those who give a damn about their kids' futures. Another dirty secret, Mr. Lucas, is that the very political party you and your Hollywood pals routinely vote for want to keep this poor underclass hegemony in place in order to keep their jobs in perpetuity. And how is this political party addressing the education issue in urban districts? Creating Insta-Teacher training programs to send unwitting and naive folks into the trenches where the attrition rate is unbelievably high. Lambs to slaughter is the image I think of.

On the subject of teacher training, this Gen Y generation trained by American universities isn't sufficiently prepared intellectually or are they equipped with the level of maturity needed to serve as proper adult role models. Many of them that I have encountered still act and think like children obsessed with FAST, EASY, and FUN.

Until your foundation addresses the true issues undermining education in America, then it's just flushing dollars down the toilet on feel-good solutions that serve only symbolic purposes, not concrete ones.

I wonder if the irony is lost on you by how incongruous your past view of technology and its effect on human life is with your present view of technology. I seem to remember the rather bleak themes of a little film of yours called THX 1138. It's a shame you've lost your skepticism.

Mr. Lucas, your fear and loathing was legitimate. Misuse of technology will lead to our ruination. Stop trying to push it on our kids!

LieberLife's picture
LieberLife
Life long Educator

Hauck, I am beginning to understand your argument but you leave a lot unfinished. Can you say more about these lawless communities? Are you talking about the teachers, staff, school administration, parents? Please help me understand where you see the solution? Let's create a dialogue that goes beyond the Occupy Wall Street protesters' trend to attack the 1% with little solution for the rest of us 99%. I look forward to your thoughts.

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

I'll gladly avoid OWS rhetoric, as that movement is a farce, since the very pols (i.e. our POTUS) that support the protests are actually part of the 1% being assailed.

As for the failing urban communities where the education system serves as the scapegoat, I need only look to 45 years of the Great Society entitlements and its failure to eliminate poverty, which leads to crime and urban blight. As I've mentioned before, that outcome is by design, as certain politicians require dependent constituencies to remain in power.

Our political and corporate system is corrupt and in need of radical reform. The corruption trickles down to the general populace and creates unrest, dissent, and despair. When people feel they have no hope, they resort to harmful behavior.

Stop the exodus of industries and the outsourcing of labor to foreign shores.

I would eliminate many social entitlements and all corporate welfare.

Return the economy to the gold standard.

Impose term limits for congressional and senate leaders, plus significant campaign financing reform.

Eliminate the IRS, the tax code, and install a flat tax for everyone, regardless of income.

Impose radical tort reform and limit the power and influence of the legal lobby.

Abolish labor unions.

Eliminate the DOE and return to the states their own authority over education.

Allow vouchers for more educational choice for citizens in under-performing school districts.

Pass a law that would require all able-bodied 18 year olds to serve a mandatory two-year military enlistment.

Impose harsher penalties for misdemeanor and felony crimes and build more prisons.

Hire more police, especially in urban areas.

We need a stealthier, healthier, and more self-reliant population governed by a smaller, limited power government run by citizens who are not career politicians.

America and the way Americans live and govern themselves must first change before anything about education can be addressed.

Donald Johnson's picture
Donald Johnson
Fired ex-Geography/Journalism/English teacher, Houston, Texas

Mr. Hauck, I consider many of my views in education to be conservative, even libertarian, at times, but your post, fraught with inconsistencies as it is, betrays a blind adherence to Tea Party rhetoric, a cherry-picked collection of ideas espoused by Ann Rand and Ludwig Von Mises without the full context of their works. [quote]I'll gladly avoid OWS rhetoric, as that movement is a farce, since the very pols (i.e. our POTUS) that support the protests are actually part of the 1% being assailed.[/quote]Yeah, the political manipulators are lining up to see how to get the OWS movement "on their side", but your conclusion is a logical fallacy. The principles and questions raised by the OWS have been discussed ad nauseum, but their lack of solid positioning differentiates them from the Lobbyist-controlled, often malevolent Tea Partiers. Much evidence also suggests that OWS is not a farce, but an awakening of conscience among the previously apathetic. Whether or not it will "sell out" remains to be seen.

[quote]As for the failing urban communities where the education system serves as the scapegoat, I need only look to 45 years of the Great Society entitlements and its failure to eliminate poverty, which leads to crime and urban blight. As I've mentioned before, that outcome is by design, as certain politicians require dependent constituencies to remain in power.[/quote]Again, I can partly agree with your general direction, but to suggest that the Great Society was a failure is to dismiss the societal benefits of many of its beneficiaries. It did appear to have lessened the cultural divide (though that is widening now) and at least offer opportunities to many who had none.

Of course there were cynical aspects of it born of the racist Southern coalition LBJ put together to get it passed. And yeah, far too much was given without expecting anything in return. But that's the history we need to learn from.

[quote]Our political and corporate system is corrupt and in need of radical reform. The corruption trickles down to the general populace and creates unrest, dissent, and despair. When people feel they have no hope, they resort to harmful behavior.[/quote]Great platitude, but your ultraconservative prescription for reform ignores the underlying reasons for outsourcing (hint: it has little to do with Great Society politics, more with the culture of Greed that is part of the Neocon creed).

[quote]Stop the exodus of industries and the outsourcing of labor to foreign shores.[/quote]Please give specifics. I'd like it to at least slow down, but I'd like our labor force to see the need to retrain and re-tool. We can still be competitive, though not in all of the traditional skills.

[quote]I would eliminate many social entitlements and all corporate welfare.[/quote]These are mutually exclusive goals. The lobbyists who've bought Congress don't see the billions granted their employers as "corporate welfare," though they do see the millions awarded the sometimes undeserving poor as wasteful, providing a distraction that the Talk Show bigots can exploit.

[quote]Return the economy to the gold standard.[/quote]Okay, William Jennings Bryan, we'll not crucify you on a Cross of Gold, but we will hold you and Ron Paul accountable for the political instability likely to occur if this is even attempted. The reasons why this won't work are obviously too complicated for your ilk to follow which is why you rely on maxims rather than considered economic thought to make your shallow point.

[quote]Impose term limits for congressional and senate leaders, plus significant campaign financing reform.[/quote]Newt campaigned on this, but abandoned the effort the minute his team won. Most of us believe that he never believed in it, just cynically exploited it.

My spin on this would be to prohibit anyone from seeking election to public office who has passed the retirement. The dinosaurs with their inflexible minds need to stay home of function only in an advisory capacity rather than in a decision-making one.

[quote]Eliminate the IRS, the tax code, and install a flat tax for everyone, regardless of income.[/quote]Your Libertarian Utopia cannot exist in the modern world; voters have already rejected the flat Tax idea when Steve Forbes got thumped.

[quote]Impose radical tort reform and limit the power and influence of the legal lobby.[/quote]You're asking lawyers to legislate less power for lawyers? Be real!

[quote]Abolish labor unions.[/quote]While not a big fan of Unions, their mere existence keeps executive power in check. More than any institution in America, Unions have been the cause of the greatest degree of wage parity to ever exist in this country.

"What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful, and childhood more happy and bright." ~ Samuel Gompers

[quote]Eliminate the DOE and return to the states their own authority over education.[/quote]To an extent I'm with you on this, if only because the DOE tends to violate the Tenth Amendment. Nevertheless, the DOE tends to allow states to opt out of its proposals as long as the states don't accept government funding. One justifies the other.

[quote]Allow vouchers for more educational choice for citizens in under-performing school districts.[/quote]This barrel of worms is fraught with inequality and political abuse. A reasonable voucher that states can afford would amount to @ $2,000/yr., hardly enough to make a meaningful difference as to whether a child can attend an exclusive private school. Take a look at India of you want to see how private school system can be worse than public ones.

[quote]Pass a law that would require all able-bodied 18 year olds to serve a mandatory two-year military enlistment.[/quote]We're not Israel; we have no need for that many servicemen (let alone women). Instead, we could attach all government benefits to low-paid government service of any kind: college graduates could have loan forgiveness by teaching schools in designated areas; all city, state, and federal employees would have near-minimum starting wages that would make them eligible for government services similar to the G. I. Bill and VA hospitals; welfare and housing recipients would have to complete a two-year work plan to maintain eligibility.

[quote]Impose harsher penalties for misdemeanor and felony crimes and build more prisons.[/quote]Without taxation, how do you propose we build these prisons? Libertarians tend to want decriminalization of marijuana, prostitution, and gambling, the so-called victimless crimes. Is this how you'd open prison space or would you impose "sin taxes?" Republicans have been strong advocates of such in the past as well as "user fees." Shall we make all freeways tollways? that would be fair.

[quote]Hire more police, especially in urban areas.[/quote]Again, where are you going to get the money? You sacked our tax system remember?

[quote]We need a stealthier, healthier, and more self-reliant population governed by a smaller, limited power government run by citizens who are not career politicians.[/quote]Pie-in-the-sky. Now back to reality. Politicians are the people we put there and we can bring them back. We don't, largely because of lack of awareness and apathy.

[quote]America and the way Americans live and govern themselves must first change before anything about education can be addressed.[/quote]"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world." ~ Paulo Freire

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

Wow, I don't even like libertarians or the bohunk Tea Partiers, but at least TPers aren't smelly kids defecating in the streets like wild animals.

Funny, you inveigh against Rush Limbaugh on your blog, but in turn, you come off here as simply a left wing copy of him. This really isn't about right vs. left. It's about human behavior and what shapes it. As I see it, human behavior in general stinks because people are too stupid to discern between needs and wants, plus controlling their appetites for material gain.

A previous poster had asked me what I would do to revive America's moral and economic infrastructure and I provided responses without for a moment believing any of them would ever become reality. I agree that greed and powerlust controls the present fate of this nation, which is why we need a real revolution, not a velvet one, but one with real weapons and ammo.

Our forefathers would have approved of such an action.

When a multimillionaire creates a tax write off foundation to address certain issues, I believe they know full well that they are only offering the same bromides as any of a dozen other people in the blogosphere. Buzzterms like "21st Century Innovation" and "Digital Divide" fail to move me, because human behavior cannot change without addressing the root causes of the poor behavior that undermines how people think and act. You won't prosper with your pants on the ground or wearing a stud in your nose. You won't prosper if you can barely speak the language without some affected guttural patois ruining it. You won't prosper if you think some dope smoking thug who hates cops is a hero. You also won't prosper if you have no life beyond planting yourself 24/7 before a gaming console or a computer screen, eating and drinking nothing but high calorie low nutrient junk, either.

Two years of mandatory military service would teach these pampered and overindulged trophy children from the 'burbs who have been told all their lives how "special" they are. BTW, other countries besides Israel imposes two year enlistments, but I know the left's anti-Israeli bias is too tough to suppress.

Since you seem to be fond of quoting other people, allow me to offer one of my own.

"If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain." -- Winston Churchill

Donald Johnson's picture
Donald Johnson
Fired ex-Geography/Journalism/English teacher, Houston, Texas

[quote]Wow, I don't even like libertarians or the bohunk Tea Partiers, but at least TPers aren't smelly kids defecating in the streets like wild animals.[/quote]Your stereotypical marginalizing of these idea persons is particularly troubling in the context of this forum in that they showed up spontaneously (similar to the TPers at first) but instead of having all the answers and a monopoly on "truth," they asked questions of each other, of law enforcement (and were occasionally treated badly by storm troopers), and of the system they railed against without having a firm idea of how to fix it. This sounds to me like participatory democracy.

btw, I met with some Occupy Houston folks Sunday and their area was well policed, though messy with makeshift sleeping bags; yeah, the town drunks and druggies have joined them (they haven't kicked them out like all the Houston businesses do), but at least it gives them something to do.

[quote]Funny, you inveigh against Rush Limbaugh on your blog, but in turn, you come off here as simply a left wing copy of him.[/quote]Copy? I don't bloviate uncontested across the airwaves, labeling people with a broad bigoted brush. And I'm not as far to the Left as he is to the Right.

[quote] This really isn't about right vs. left.[/quote]You framed the discussion thusly; I have a more education-related agenda in mind.

[quote] It's about human behavior and what shapes it. As I see it, human behavior in general stinks because people are too stupid to discern between needs and wants, plus controlling their appetites for material gain.[/quote]Wow, you are a cynic! Why not just give up?

[quote]A previous poster had asked me what I would do to revive America's moral and economic infrastructure and I provided responses without for a moment believing any of them would ever become reality.[/quote]Bloviations, perhaps? What was your purpose, then?

[quote] I agree that greed and powerlust controls the present fate of this nation, which is why we need a real revolution, not a velvet one, but one with real weapons and ammo. Our forefathers would have approved of such an action.[/quote]Drenching the tree of liberty with blood of patriots? TJ woulda been proud.

It's funny how these parts of American history have been re-configured to the will of Ron Paul while leaving some essential parts out. It does point to how terribly history is taught in our schools; a good argument could be made that the Sons of Liberty were terrorists in much the same vein as the modern al-Quaeda.

When I attempted to pose different views on historical interpretation to my ninth graders for the purpose of discussion, however, I was rebuked by my administrators who saw my actions as near-treason and "off-topic (after all, preparing for the realtor-driven TAKS tests was more important than developing critical thinking skills through Socratic dialogue).

[quote]When a multimillionaire creates a tax write off foundation to address certain issues, I believe they know full well that they are only offering the same bromides as any of a dozen other people in the blogosphere. Buzzterms like "21st Century Innovation" and "Digital Divide" fail to move me, because human behavior cannot change without addressing the root causes of the poor behavior that undermines how people think and act. You won't prosper with your pants on the ground or wearing a stud in your nose. You won't prosper if you can barely speak the language without some affected guttural patois ruining it. You won't prosper if you think some dope smoking thug who hates cops is a hero. You also won't prosper if you have no life beyond planting yourself 24/7 before a gaming console or a computer screen, eating and drinking nothing but high calorie low nutrient junk, either.[/quote]Now you're touching on an area in which we are likely to have more agreement than difference. Too many platitudes about the benefits of technology, too little effort to align school technology objectives with the lives our students are living, and too much administrative fear that the students might actually learn something they don't want them to know. If Lucas was serious about this, he'd address the issue of censorship head-on. Seems we're mad at China for doing what we do to schoolchildren constantly.
They do NOT have freedom of speech!

[quote]Two years of mandatory military service would teach these pampered and overindulged trophy children from the 'burbs who have been told all their lives how "special" they are. BTW, other countries besides Israel imposes two year enlistments, but I know the left's anti-Israeli bias is too tough to suppress.[/quote]The Left as I know it is not anti-Jew as much as it is anti-Zionist. That's a racist pseudo-religious movement that is doomed to fail because of its intractability (much like the TPers).

The best thing our public education system has accomplished is widespread tolerance of various cultures and infirmities. Much of the cosmopolitan conversation that occurs regularly in Houston now would have been impossible just 50 years ago before integration was forced here by those wanting to bring a major league baseball team to town.

Now if we can just get past the scars the legacy of hate has inflicted...

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

Apart from the obvious underlying anti-Semitic sentiment, since "Zionism" is a discredited term only used by Israel's enemies (you actually protest Israeli *nationalism*), you get that tech is not an antidote to inadequate education. However, focusing on censorship is relatively minor, when again, urban cultures in America are rife with a level of crime, poverty, and indifference that political powers wish to perpetuate in order to keep their jobs. Until that changes, a majority of urban kids won't receive sufficient educations and the ugly cycle will repeat for generations to come.

Despite words to the contrary, political powers from the left and right don't want a level playing field for their own reasons.

It's like cancer. If a cure was to be discovered tomorrow, too many people would be out of work.

Crisis and disaster management is too lucrative an enterprise to cease. One problem can't be solved until another one is ready to take its place and keep the dollars flowing.

Additionally, you have a generation of retro-adolescents placed in positions of authority in classrooms. Some of them blog on this website. What they represent and how they think appalls me. They aren't skeptical or suspicious of technology and its effect on human behavior.

As far as diversity goes, the more we define ethnic, racial, and gender differences and virtually force, by law, that people tolerate and accept those differences, the more intolerant and fractured society becomes. The human race is xenophobic by nature. It's about basic tribal politics.

Donald Johnson's picture
Donald Johnson
Fired ex-Geography/Journalism/English teacher, Houston, Texas

Your views on my brief Zionist point mirror those of Abe Foxman. Here's an intriguing discussion on all of these issues: http://mondoweiss.net/2009/03/foxman-is-zionism-racism-you-bet-it-is-all....

Now, I challenge your statement that "urban cultures in America are rife with a level of crime, poverty...." While there are elements within urban cultures that are cancerous, they can be excised with a considered, approach that includes a high degree of communication. Too often, America's political power base is encased in gated communities, thereby removing the issues of a large part of their constituency by simply avoiding it. Those of us who have taught in the trenches understand that our enemies are most often the ones we don't see; the nincompoops that comprise public school management are but their puppets whose insight into the real problems our students face are about as shallow as the platitudes they mouth.

The solutions aren't likely to be developed by the Lucas Foundation because they don't believe me and others who insist that all the "fixes" proposed here amount to no more than adding to the constant barrage of "innovative" reforms that administrators have become so adept at co-opting out of existence.

Yeah, there's a way to improve education for Americans, but it starts with an attitude that we must get harsher, not nicer; ,competition is the name of the game ion the corporate world, and telling these children how wonderful they are doesn't prepare them for those who are not quite as kind. In fact, it tends to inhibit their abilities to learn by producing narcissistic, under-performers whose sense of self hardly matches reality.

SO while we have common ground as to the forces that prevent learning, Mr. Hauck, you seem far more pessimistic about whether true reform can be accomplished based on your highly cynical view of human nature.

I'm about "enlightened self-interest" which is something that not all will students can ever understand, but those who do just might enlarge the bubble of knowledge enough to protect the weak and apathetic from themselves.

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

Cancerous elements within urban cultures CANNOT be excised with more money, talk, or continued handwringing. The most effective means to deal with them is to cut off all welfare entitlements. Entitlements of any kind are un-Constitutional to begin with. See below for a quote from James Madison.

You say we should get harsher, fine, start in the urban neighborhoods where it's most needed. It doesn't need to begin in the white suburbs where advocates are insulated from possible charges of being "racist."

You know as well as I that the fear of being negatively labeled inhibits stealth remedies in the poorest performing sectors of society. Political correctness has trumped common sense. Without rational common sense to guide thinking, relying on "feelings" to do the job is an invitation to failure.

"If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare,
and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare,
they may take the care of religion into their own hands;
they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish
and pay them out of their public treasury;
they may take into their own hands the education of children,
establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union;
they may assume the provision of the poor;
they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads;
in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation
down to the most minute object of police,
would be thrown under the power of Congress.... Were the power
of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for,
it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature
of the limited Government established by the people of America."

Darcy Hill's picture
Darcy Hill
Creative Drama and Music Teacher Pre-K through 5th Grade

We are not out of the woods yet. Schools seem to reflect societal breakdowns. All of our metrics obsessed, high stakes testing has not produced more successful students, but has surely increased stress along the way. Forbes Magazine has more than once listed our hometown among the most violent in the USA. Walls of fear inhibit most all that is good and hopeful, and fear is not conducive to learning at any level. There is a need for schools and cities and neighbors to collaborate and build bridges of hope and trust and promise. We have tried this and it is good. Please see "Stronger Together" at http://imaginationcollaborationteacher.blogspot.com for our story.

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