Retrospect: Waiting for Superman (DVD)

Davis Guggenheim directed this stark look at why public schools are failing, and how one man, Geoffrey Canada, is trying to revive them with his particular brand of charter school. Mr. Canada, an educator who inspired the film’s title, was crushed as a child by his mother’s revelation that Superman did not exist, and grew up to become a teacher who would defy the notion that poverty had to perpetuate educational collapse.

The film also follows a number of children and their families as they travel the roads of public school education, some tainted by a number of tenure-protected teachers. The students attempt to enter various charter schools, where they have a better chance to reach college and ultimately to succeed in the working world.

The filmmaker indicates that the teachers unions, such as the NEA and AFT, are in error because they try to protect all teachers’ jobs, instead of firing incompetent or abusive teachers, and rewarding those who are good and effective in their work.

The caring parents depicted in the film do everything they can to provide their children with a quality education. Of course, there are parents who do not make such efforts on behalf of their children, however for many (the film asserts) it is a near impossible battle, but one they intend to win.

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us that education “statistics” have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of the film, writes Sundance Film Festival via IMDB. These children followed by the film come from poor homes, and one was taken in by a kindly grandmother, when his drug abusing father passed away.

The climax of the film centers on lotteries held to determine which children will be placed in the respective charter schools mentioned in the film, with many disappointed young people who have pinned their hopes on this one opportunity turned away. While the situation is a dire one, there are other means to a good education, including home schooling, when possible. Obtaining a good education is within better grasp than a lottery,
but the situation is not good.

Waiting For Superman will leave the uninitiated with a unique look at the crisis in America’s public school system, underscoring the urgent need for a solution. It may inspire a strong generation of future educators.

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