Waiting for Superman

The Guggenheim Exhibit

         
 

08 October 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Director Davis Guggenheim actually shoehorns in some archival footage of the 1950’s Superman in Waiting for Superman. The focal outrage of the documentary is why the public school system in the United States has disparagingly fallen. Of the 30 major developed countries, the U.S. ranks 25thin math and 21stin science. The children of America might actually rank number one in confidence. Educators and chancellors might say that we are overconfident. Where is the discipline? The applied learning? The homework?

Guggenheim (Oscar winner for “An Inconvenient Truth”) likes to cut often to Geoffrey Canada, a longtime educator and president of a special school that flourishes in Harlem. And why not? Canada is a completely charismatic speaker and he speaks fast, keeping this doc moving with urgency! Lots of information and diagnoses are courtesy of him. Bill Gates, yes the Gates of Microsoft, explains why we outsource employees from other countries to work tech. It’s because there are not enough educated students in America qualified to work the high tech jobs.

If there was a person closest to being Superman it might be Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington D.C. public school system whose first move was to fire a 100-plus inadequate principals and close 23 ineffective schools. She would fire bad teachers, too, but it’s against national law which gives intractable rights to tenured teachers. The tradition of tenure has dubious origins, as explained. They can only discipline bad teachers (how often does that really happen!), but your jaw will drop when you see how New York deals with them.

In addition to the educators, Guggenheim tracks the lives of five young elementary school students. Guggenheim doesn’t explain why he happened to choose these five case studies, but never mind. All of their parents, of course, want their children to be served a better education. Their children are enlisted into the lottery which promises them a better, more attention-friendly small school which is better than the local “dropout factories.” In a mini-climax, Guggenheim cuts back and forth between various lotteries where there are more applicants than available spots.

The tech credits are bright, with Guggenheim once again implementing multimedia devices such as diagrams and animation graphics to inform points and statistics, as well as clips from “The Simpsons” and, why not, “School of Rock.” That part is thorough. But what is not given imperative is how education begins in the home, and in life experience, and that bad parents are not given as much the blame as bad teachers. How do you draw statistics out of that?

111 Minutes. Rated PG.

DOCUMENTARY / TEENS AND PARENTS / FALL SCHOLASTICS

Film Cousins: “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006); “Half Nelson” (2006); “The Class” (2008, France); “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (2009).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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