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MOVIE REVIEW: Waiting For Superman

Over-hyped schools documentary misses the mark

Waiting For Superman: Rates a D.
Courtesy photo

Rent Waiting for Guffman. Hell, rent Superman. Rent anything before going to see Waiting for Superman (I refuse to put the quotes around Superman, just as I refused to put the parenthesis around “500” in 500 Days of Summer).

First, let’s talk about director Davis Guggenheim. He’s a guy who certainly has his heart in the right place, but he gave us the An Inconvenient Truth, which we found out wasn’t always truthful.

And this movie manipulates in very unfair ways. It also states obvious facts (we need better teachers/schools).

I loved watching Harlem educator Geoffrey Canada. This is a guy that doesn’t just talk the talk, but is out doing everything he can to help educate our children.

We also get to see Bill Gates doing his part.

A lot of teachers will have problems with teachers unions getting attacked, as do I. There are certainly things about teachers unions, well…a lot of unions…that bother me. The problem with our schools isn’t the teachers unions. It’s basically two things – over-population/crowded schools, and poor parents. It’s as simple as that.

DO NOT tell me there are bad teachers. We know that. Just as there are bad firemen, bad cops, bad plumbers, and bad people in every profession.

And someone please tell me why the movie brought up a country that has the most successful school system (I forget which one), and they are all union. That little fact was glanced over. Hmmm.

Oh, that school system also had less ethnic diverse students, too. Not that I think that matters, but if we’re going to bring up things, let’s bring it all up. Let’s not just cherry pick the things we’re going to cover.

If you’re going to attack public schools, is showing a few bad ones in the worst neighborhoods, the way to do it? I’m guessing there are thousands of great public schools, where students of all ethnicities and incomes, thrive.

And if the premise of this is that charter schools are better, why is it I (a product of the public school system) spent 10 minutes on the computer and found this fun fact: 2009’s National Assessment of Educational Progress showed 37% of charter schools had smaller gains in math scores than public schools. 17% had superior gains, and 46% had no difference.

Let’s do a movie that addresses the real problem – poor parenting. Really, that’s the main problem. You can go to the worst school in the worst neighborhood, and if the parents insist their kids do their homework and follow instruction from the teacher (even the few bad teachers out there), they are going to get a decent eduction. I say this having known someone that was a good teacher, in South Central L.A. About 75 percent of the parents he dealt with were horrible. They didn’t care the kid was failing when he called. When he met with parents, they cursed and threatened him physically. They couldn’t think logically, or speak properly. They often claimed he was racist (even though the majority of the school was black or Latino, and they were all passing). I’m guessing a parent that cared would’ve done something after the phone call, not after the report card when they are merely there so their child isn’t held back a grade or can get their GPA up and play for the football team.

The narrative in this movie is hardly interesting; even if you have kids that are currently enrolled in school.

Regarding the five kids followed in this movie -- obviously they have parents who care. I’m guessing most in those poor schools don’t, and no amount of Geoffrey Canadas in the world are going to change how well they will do in school. And some of these students who are followed aren’t so compelling to watch (unlike the documentary Spellbound. It has amazing kids. Even the ones in the poor neighborhoods; rent that instead. I guarantee you’ll love it).

Aside from the “bad teachers,” the other point this movie tries to make is that these bad schools (“failure factories”) create bad neighborhoods. Sorry Guggenheim, you got that one backwards. And just the fact that my simple search (and another study I just found) show that charter schools don’t do much better, kind of ruins the premise of the film, no?

If you’re an ultra-liberal that loves to shout about how everyone in the world is keeping the poor and downtrodden down, this is the film for you. For everyone else, it’s not worth the silly manipulation and distortion of facts; but hey, if it gets people talking and improvements are made to the educational system – awesome!

At the end of the day, this just isn’t all that interesting a documentary to sit through (and I love documentaries).

It gets a D.