“Pregnant, neglected or bullied; the students all have one thing in common — each had a life experience that caused them to take an unexpected left turn. Dream School’s celebrity teachers will have one mission — to excite these young minds, reignite their passions, and get them to graduate from a real, accredited high school.”
And so begins the introduction to Dream School, the latest television spectacle from the Sundance Channel, a subsidiary of the AMC Networks. Based on the website, the show has been on for at least a month and a half (if we do the math from the six episodes up for viewing on the site now. But dear ol’ Eduflack (a self-confessed television junkie) honestly hadn’t heard about it until this week.
The premise is fairly simple. A team of “celebrities” decide to play teacher as they seek to change the lives of young adults in need of life changing. For the enormity of the challenge, Sundance has turned to successful educators such as 50 Cent, David Arquette, Oliver Stone, and Jesse Jackson. They are supported by a superintendent from California and three teachers (all from California charter schools, interestingly).
So it begs an important question. Where is the public outrage on Dream School?
For all of those who grow short of breath ranting about Teach for America and its lack of proper teacher preparation, where is the outrage of placing inexperienced and untrained celebrities in classrooms with the very definition of at-risk students?
For all of those who get red in the face questioning the value of charter schools, where is the outrage of only using teacher coaches who come from public charter schools?
For all of those who argue good teachers cannot overcome poverty and family situations, where is the outrage that a celebrity can step in and do the job that entire school system was supposedly unable to do?
For those who talk of overcrowded classrooms, where is the outrage that Dream School is essentially a one-to-one intervention?
For those who fear the “profiteering” on our public schools, where is the outrage over where all of the ad revenue for this new show is going?
And how can we pass up responding to a gem like, “But how will they perform as teachers to some of America’s toughest high school dropouts?”
Yes, our schools shouldn’t be test tubes. But they also shouldn’t be the settings for reality television experiments. Some of these students seem to have real problems. They need knowledgeable, experienced educators who can provide them the support and attention they need. Somehow, “no, I’m not a teacher, but I play one on TV” doesn’t quite seem to be the full answer these at-risk students need.