M. Night Shyamalan wrote a book about how to fix public schools

Senior Editor
08.30.13 23 Comments

It’s been 11 years since M. Night Shyamalan had a movie tracking above 50% on RottenTomatoes (and that movie was Signs, which shows the failings of RottenTomatoes rating system), and his approval rating as a filmmaker is currently hovering somewhere between congress and Uwe Boll. It’s not just that he’s made bad movies, it’s that he’s made terrible ones, and then refused to acknowledge their less-than-amazingness in any way.

Would you take advice on how to fix the public education system from this man, who seems to be terrible at learning lessons? Simon & Schuster apparently thinks you will, because they’re publishing his book I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap. Shouldn’t there be a word limit on book titles? This is getting ridiculous.

I Got Schooled offers a look at America’s educational achievement gap that could only have come from an outsider.

Famed director M. Night Shyamalan has long had a serious interest in education. The founda­tion he and his wife started once gave college scholarships to promising inner-city students, but Shyamalan realized that these scholarships did nothing to improve education for all the other students in under-performing schools. When he learned that some schools were succeeding with similar student populations, he traveled across the country to find out how they did this and whether these schools had something in common. He eventually learned that there are five keys to closing America’s achievement gap. But just as we must do several things to maintain good health— eat the right foods, exercise regularly, get a good night’s sleep—so too must we use all five keys to turn around our lowest-performing schools. [Amazon]

You can get a small taste of the book’s content from Shyamalan’s recent interview in New York Magazine:

But it’s not like there’s a shortage of people writing about education reform. What need were you filling?

The need is, I don’t want to hear anyone’s opinion, and I don’t want to hear what you spent your life working on. I just want to know what everybody found. I have no investment in this. In fact, most of it was counter to what I thought I was going to find. For example, small classroom sizes. How could it be wrong? How could that not be a part of the answer? Or master’s programs and Ph.D.’s for the teachers. How could that not be a part of the answer? How could paying teachers like doctors not be a part of the answer? How can funding the schools at $20,000 per pupil not be part of the answer? And yet none of them are.

In your book, you talk at one point about your fondness for grand, unified-field theories. I feel like I’m hearing that here.

It comes out of—I don’t know what you want to call it, a spirituality, a belief that there is an order to things. So, right now, the landscape of education reform looks mushy and hopeless. That’s not how the universe works. Right? So we know that’s wrong. [NYMag]

It’s easy to bash M. Night Shyamalan when he’s making movies, because he presents himself as such an unsympathetic character. It’s a lot harder when he’s giving scholarships to inner-city kids and trying to improve public education. This seems like it could do a lot to improve his public image. I mean, as long as the book isn’t about how the problem with our public schools is that they lack a European sensibility.

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