Waiting for Superman: The Fate of our Country…will be Determined in the Classroom (2010)

Posted: February 17, 2011 in Documentary

The tagline reads “the fate of our country won’t be determined on the battlefield, it will be determined in the classroom.” The American education system is broken and damaged. According to Geoffrey Canada. There are too few resources and too much bureaucracy to support the growth and development of our nation’s schools. Following the stories of several families, we dive into the concept of the school lottery, a method for children to be selected for limited programs that are outside of the regular public school system. Included within the problems in public schools are tenured teachers, limited resources, the teacher’s union, No Child Left Behind, lack of funding and a series of failing curricula.

The families in this movie help to provide a personal connection with the problems of the education system. Even without a family of one’s own, it is easy for the viewer to feel for the children and their attempt at a better education. Waiting and watching becomes the theme of each of their stories. Anthony, in particular, exhibits what we would love to see in each of our kids. Even though he does not want to leave his friends and family, he seems to have an honest interest in loving education and seeing the benefit for the future. Emily shows the challenges of the suburban areas with their moderately decent schools but mandated tracking system that would place her on a direction of less challenge and support. Bianca serves as an example of the plethora of single parent families who want to reach for a better life but are afforded virtually no options to improve their situation.

A lot of the challenges of this movie, including its lack of recognition for the Oscars, focus on the calling out of unions and failing professionals in the field of education. While there are problems that also exist with the individual families and environmental factors, the movie is not misrepresenting problems that truly exist with the system. Tenure is imperfect at the collegiate level but has been turned upside down at the public school level. Two years to reach tenure without true proof of effectiveness leaves a sea of unmotivated teachers that fail to connect with or care about children. There are certainly a large quantity of teachers who do care, but the troubling ones remain floating through the education system. Michelle Rhee’s fight in DC exhibits the brick wall that develops when interests conflict with each other. The unions do care about the children, but they also care about the inconsistent recognition for the importance of education. It is no surprise that the unions want to improve the salaries of teachers, but their fight seems to be at the detriment of supporting a successful curriculum.

The movie does not provide the actual answers to fixing education, but it does offer a number of foundational elements that could evolve into solutions. Bureaucracy continues to keep the American education system from reaching its potential but continued efforts to support innovative programs like KIPP could turn around our place in the world. Visit http://www.waitingforsuperman.com for more information.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5


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