‘The Blind Side’ should trouble as well as inspire

“The Blind Side” is a beautiful new film based on a magnificent and heartwarming true story. But I hope that the many who see it do not simply walk out all aglow. The movie should also produce some concern.

This story about hopelessness transformed into achievement should be a typically American story. We should be concerned that increasingly this is not the case — it is the exception that should be the rule.

Michael Oher’s story has already received much attention. A homeless black 15-year-old winds up in a Christian private school, where he is adopted by a white Christian couple who helps him develop to get the grades he needs to stay in school, become a star athlete, an All-American football player and a multimillion-dollar NFL draft pick.

Our wake-up call should be that the factors which saved and transformed Michael Oher’s life stand in stark contrast to the government solutions we hear from Washington, D.C., about dealing with our problems in poverty and education.

Oher’s story is about private individuals, about personal choices and responsibility, and about Christians. And it’s not just about white Christians. The decision that started the chain of events that changed Oher’s life came from a black Christian woman.

Fatherless, with a drug-addicted mother, Oher bounced from one foster home to another, and then moved from one private home to another, sleeping on friends’ floors in the West Memphis ghetto.

While doing a stint on the floor of “Big Tony” Henderson, Henderson’s mother died. Her dying wish was to get her grandson Steven out of the public school where he was enrolled and into a “Christian school.”

The film opens with Tony making his pitch at the Briarcrest Christian School (called Wingate in the film) in Memphis to enroll his son — and to also admit his son’s friend, “Big Mike.”

Steven’s acceptance wasn’t problematic because he had good grades. But Oher, with a 0.6 grade point average, demanded all the Christian grace the admission team could muster. They came through.

Michael Lewis’ book, on which the film is based, discusses Oher’s public school experience prior to Briarcrest, which the film skips over. He’d been in eleven different schools. The public schools were pushing him through to get rid of him, not to educate him. In ninth grade his records showed that he missed 50 days of school, yet he was passed.

The film also ignores the IQ issue, which in the book is an eye opener.

Shortly after his enrollment at Briarcrest, Oher, struggling to make it, met Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, a self-made couple of means. They took him in to their substantial home and soon thereafter adopted him.

By his senior year, making a final push to get his GPA to meet NCAA standards for college admission, they took him to psychologists for intelligence testing.

They found, incredibly, that in his few years at Briarcrest, his IQ increased almost 30 points. When he was admitted, his IQ measured 80. Now tests showed him between 100 and 110.

This, according to Lewis, “wasn’t supposed to happen. IQ was meant to be a given, like the size of one’s feet.” The psychologists were dumbfounded.

Michael Oher achieved this. But he couldn’t have done it without a Christian school and his caring Christian adopted parents, who loved him and respected his uniqueness.

President Barack Obama’s $4.5 billion in new education spending will not fix our education crisis. Government and moral relativism never has been the answer — and will not be now.

School choice and traditional values is the answer. Freedom, not bureaucrats, produces miracles. Michael Oher may be an exceptional individual, but his story need not be an exceptional story.

Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education (www.urbancure.org). She can be reached at parker@urbancure.org.

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