Every morning, in big cities, suburbs and small towns across America, parents send their children off to school with the highest of hopes. But a shocking number of students in the United States attend schools where they have virtually no chance of learning–failure factories likelier to produce drop-outs than college graduates. And despite decades of well-intended reforms and huge sums of money spent on the problem, our public schools haven’t improved markedly since the 1970s.
Why? There is an answer. And it’s not what you think. From “An Inconvenient Truth” director Davis Guggenheim comes “Waiting for ‘Superman’”, a provocative and cogent examination of the crisis of public education in the United States told through multiple interlocking stories–from a handful of students and their families whose futures hang in the balance, to the educators and reformers trying to find real and lasting solutions within a dysfunctional system. Tackling such politically radioactive topics as the power of teachers’ unions and the entrenchment of school bureaucracies, Guggenheim reveals the invisible forces that have held true education reform back for decades.
In a documentary sure to get parents and teachers talking–and arguing–An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim offers an eye-opening overview of America’s ailing educational system. Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, serves as his primary speaker. As a kid in the Bronx, Canada learned that Superman didn’t exist, which broke his heart, but also inspired him to help other underprivileged children. Aside from Canada and Washington, DC, school chancellor Michelle Rhee, Guggenheim profiles Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, engaging young people without access to institutions adequate to their needs (Guggenheim concentrates on the inner city). Bianca’s single mother, for instance, sends her daughter to a private facility in New York, but that ends when she can no longer afford the tuition.
The five families choose the charter school option, but not every child will win the lottery, since applicants outnumber spaces (in Bianca’s case, 767 apply for 35 slots). Guggenheim also questions teachers’ unions, which sometimes act against the best interests of students. He’s particularly concerned about underperforming instructors who suffer no disciplinary measures due to tenure, but he credits the dedicated professionals who help at-risk kids beat the odds. The film ends with a potentially happy outcome for one subject, but updates on the others fail to materialize. After investing in their stories, it’s natural to expect more information. Guggenheim otherwise provides a persuasive argument that involved parents will always have an advantage over those who accept whatever comes their way–no matter how ineffective.Waiting For Superman,