Picks and Pans Review: Teacher, Teacher
PBS (Tues., June l2, 9 P.M. ET)
Frontline takes its cameras to the town of Shakopee, Minn., to examine a pervasive community issue: frustration with the public school system.
We hear from three dedicated but disillusioned teachers: Judi Tomczik (high school English) and Sharon Boyden and Barry Kirchmeier (both 5th grade). Among their concerns is growing polarization. In recent years, they have seen a wider gap growing between students who are high achievers and those with serious problems in reading and other subjects. They also note that the unraveling of the nuclear family (divorce, two-income homes, etc.) means teachers are increasingly called upon to provide nurture and counsel to their classroom charges, in addition to teaching them. Another problem is posed by the increasing number of teenagers moving into the work force. It means that high schoolers have less time and energy to devote to their studies.
Meanwhile, the Shakopee community, upset over tax increases for school funding, has turned bitter. As Tomczik (who by the end of this documentary decides to leave the teaching profession) points out, the public perception is that "teachers are overpaid, underworked complainers." A referendum has been passed to limit spending. After dispiriting negotiations, a compromise is reached, but special programs are slashed and faculty salaries all but frozen.
The program has no solution to the dilemma. It's a flat, dispassionate presentation of an alarming problem.
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