How to Fix the U.S. Education System? Wyatt Cenac Aims to Answer With 'Problem Areas' Season 2

Wyatt Cenac returns to HBO with Season 2 of his late-night show, Problem Areas, on Friday. While policing was the focus of the show during its premiere season last year, this time around, the comedian tackles another issue dramatically impacting American life: education.

Over 10 episodes, Cenac travels across the country to explore some of the problems dominating the educational system in the U.S., including disproportionate access to quality education rooted in class and race, teacher pay, student mental health, school-provided lunches and the school-to-prison pipeline, while sharing his unique perspective and, of course, comedic hot takes.

By visiting real people who are actively trying to make a difference in their school districts, Problem Areas provides an in-depth look at how communities in West Virginia, Oregon, Minnesota and other places are addressing the broken education system and how teachers are banding together to give students the best education they can with the resources they have, despite lack of government assistance or support.

"Unfortunately, education has so often been treated as a spaceship that is leaving a planet that's about to explode and we can only save the ones we can," Cenac said to Newsweek. "The approach to education has not been on how we can take everything that we have and make sure every kid in the district has access to it. We've allowed ourselves to engage in this fighting for scraps [mindset]. That in itself creates problems, and it creates even more problems for the few that wind up lost in the wind."

Cenac said the theme of Season 2 surfaced as he was working last year and realized how often policing intertwines with the education system in various communities. His interest heightened after thousands participated in teacher strikes at the start of 2018 in areas such as West Virginia, where 35,000 people staged walkouts; 45,000 in Oklahoma; and 26,000 in Kentucky. More than 267,000 in Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina joined in months later, according to The Washington Post.

With massive walkouts, school shootings up 59 percent since 2006 and congressional efforts to defund educational sectors, Cenac said the issues affecting schools just seemed like the right thing to address at this time.

Granted, Problem Areas can only be a small-fish solution in a big pond of issues, but Cenac hopes his work will be impactful in addressing challenging educational concerns and bolstering the efforts of those seeking reform in their own communities. "Everybody we talked to was hopeful and had a belief and faith that this can be better," he said. "There is a burning desire to fight to make it better, and that's what these educators are doing."

He continued: "Whatever the community, whether it's a rural area ravaged by drugs, or low income in a big city that's being pushed out by gentrification, no matter how stressful and troubling the education system is, what you see are people who haven't given up."

Problem Areas returns to HBO on Friday at 11 p.m. ET.

How to Fix the U.S. Education System? Wyatt Cenac Aims to Answer With 'Problem Areas' Season 2 | Culture
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