Movie Review: Waiting For Superman

Waiting For Superman
Written and Directed by Davis Guggenheim
Participant Media
Release date: September 24, 2010

If director Davis Guggenheim‘s previous film, An Inconvenient Truth, was America’s wake-up call to the global warming crisis, then his latest effort, Waiting for Superman, is a cry for help to save America’s public school system.

The U.S. public school system is in trouble. Despite the signing of The No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 to improve public education as a whole, the results have been less than stellar. Overall test scores across the states are still at an all-time low, drop-out rates keeping increasing, and some schools still can’t provide basic supplies for their classrooms. So how did it get so wrong? And is it too late to fix this broken institution?

Despite the film’s sometimes grim and always serious tone, the information is presented to the audience in an informative and digestible format. Using cartoon animation, one on one interviews, and kitchy archival footage, the documentary is never boring even if it does feel like a product from the Michael Moore school of documentary filmmaking.

While the film points to many reasons behind the declining public schools, the Waiting For Superman puts the blame right on the teacher’s union. Built to protect the rights of the teachers, the political machine has become too good at what it does, protecting good teachers as well as those who are inept, the latter are often tenured, making their expulsion even more difficult to achieve.

The film gets its point across most effectively when a group of students and parents become the focus of the film. Viewers get a first-hand account of just how important a good education is for some of these kids. For some, the chance to get into a good high school is the difference between going to college or going to jail. And the finale, where all the students attend a lottery to see if they win a chance to get into an oversubscribed high school, is sure to leave you speechless and in tears.

Whether you believe it is the teacher’s union job to shoulder all the blame or that parents need to get more involved in their child’s educational lives, both sides can agree that the future of our nation and society rests solely on our children and their education.

Waiting for Superman is a cry for help, but it can also serve as a call to arms, a call to anyone who wants to step up and do their part to help fix education. A call to be these children’s Superman.

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