On Dec. 13, a special showing of the movie "Waiting for Superman" was held at the Wilma Theater. A panel discussion was held at the film's end. The members of the panel were mostly Missoula educators and the audience was largely made up of Missoula teachers. The Missoula education community is to be given great credit for dealing directly with the movie and the subject of education reform.
The theme of the movie is largely centered on the subject of charter schools. Charter schools are public schools that are independent and are not under the administrative control of the school district. Charter schools exist in 47 of the 50 states.
All the members of the panel appeared to be supporters of the traditional school system and none offered any meaningful support for any educational alternatives. As the discussion progressed, it became clear that many members of the panel regarded charter schools to be a threat.
The charter school concept stems from the free-market economic notion that choice and competition generally result in a higher quality of goods and services. Many feel that the structure of existing traditional education is similar to the old Soviet Union's system of central planning.
These basic free-market ideas were avoided by the panel until I asked about them. Great hostility ensued, directed at both charter schools and the whole idea of school choice. This hostile attitude toward free-market philosophy, on the part of Missoula's education leaders, is very disturbing. There can be no doubt that this attitude filters down to the students.
It is evident that in this day and age the state of the economy is of primary importance. The question of just what kind of economic theories are being taught to the students is something that should be of concern to every Missoula parent.
William Johnson, Missoula