Posted: October 17th, 2013
Waiting for Superman
The movie “Waiting for Superman” directed by Davis Guggenheim and produced by Lesley Chilcott, is a documentary based on America’s education system that was released in 2010. In this movie, Guggenheim follows five children and their families, as they seek ways of getting an education in the charter school system. The children vary in age with the youngest child in kindergarten and the oldest in the eighth grade. Four of the children are in public schools, while one is in a parochial school. Guggenheim‘s main assertion is that American public schools are a failing system, which do not help children in any way, and the charter schools are the solution to these problems. He asserts that one of the major problems in public schools is the fact that the teachers are unionized. He blames unionization for the massive problem in public schools, since the teachers union protects bad teachers. This movie highlights the needed reforms in American education. Although Guggenheim has shown the need for reforms, he has failed to capture the essence of these reforms by suggesting charter schools as the solution, rather than advocating for an overhaul in the overall school system (Denby)
Guggenheim brings out the ills of American public education, noting that it is a failed system. He shows how public schools fail because of high drop out rates, yet he fails to give the reasons for these dropouts. He advocates and supports the idea of charter schools, which he considers a success in American education. Charter schools do not have to follow the state curriculum because the teachers can design their own curriculum (Denby). Guggenheim fails to advance the observation that not all charter schools are successful. Some charter schools perform just as well as public schools. Some charter schools perform more poorly than district schools (Denby). Only one out of five charter schools have outstanding performance (Merrow). Some public schools have good performance, and they have high graduation rates. Guggenheim did not show this in the documentary. He did not seek to find out why students from the same public school and the same community do not register similar results. Some students face many problems and challenges, and this determines how well they perform in school.
Teachers are fundamental in ensuring the success of students. In the movie, Guggenheim brings out the debate about ‘great’ teachers, which he posits are in charter schools, and the other ‘good’ teachers in public schools. He does not take the time to distinguish between good and great teachers. Instead, much of what is in the documentary is that good and great teachers are young and white (Merrow). The movie does not capture the teachers’ voices. It fails to seek their opinion concerning the underlying problems in public schools. If the movie had intended to raise awareness on the need of reforms in public education, then it fails miserably because it does not look at the root of the problem. Teachers in public schools deal with many children from diverse background. In some cases, the teachers have to deal with more than class work, as they often find that they are involved in their students’ personal lives. Many children in public schools undergo challenges, and they have to find ways to resolve their problems as well as deal with schoolwork (Denby).
I think that the major problem in America is that people have left all education responsibility to teachers and the school system. Families are failing because they should be the first people to educate their children. Education does not start when a child goes to school, and neither does it stop when that child leaves the school gate. Parents have to understand that they are the first illustration that their children have when it comes to education. In the movie, Guggenheim shows how parents depend on the lottery to determine whether their children will get a spot in the charter schools. By doing this, the parents have already shown their children that they can only succeed in charter schools. The parents think that the only way that the children can get to college is by enrolling in charter schools. In a country where there are many schools to choose from, parents do not have to wait for the lottery to determine where their children will get an education. This shows that education in a gamble, and one has to be lucky to win. Over the years, many children have attended various colleges and universities in the country or abroad, yet most of them passed through public education.
It is clear that there is need for reform in the education sector judging from the poor results in public schools. Guggenheim would have used the chance he had while making this documentary to illustrate this need. However, he failed to capture the voice of teachers in public schools, yet they had more information regarding the ailing system. The teachers could have provided suggestions that would have contributed in solving the problem. Instead, Guggenheim chose to focus on a few well performing charter schools. He saw them as the solution to the problem. He did not focus on the charter schools that do not perform well, and neither did he focus on the public schools that continue to perform well and see many children go to college. The movie “Waiting for Superman” fails in its title because it does not show the need for having a superman in the education reforms.
Denby, David. “School Spirit: Waiting for Superman.” The New Yorker. 11 Oct. 2010. Web. 27 July 2012
Merrow, John. Movie Review: Waiting for Superman. 2010. Web. 27 July 2012
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