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We need to be our own Superman

  • Oct 10, 2010
In Waiting for Superman, David Guggenheim's riviting documentary about America's school systems, he asks the question many parents have been asking. If our teachers are central to the performance of a school, how can we reconcile poor performance with an uncritical view of teachers? Are bad schools only in slums? Can children brought up in poverty excel in school? Waiting for Superman is not an attack on teachers. If anything its a testament to the critical importance of good teachers. Guggenheim's research shows the amazing effect that good teaching can have on a very large population of students. But he also presents the corallary. Just as good teaching saves lives, bad teaching destroys them. And unfortunately Americans have allowed a system to develop where good teachers get no rewards and bad teachers are almost never fired. The problem is not necessarily spending. We have more than doubled our per student expenditures since the 1960s (even adjusting for inflation) and are turning out graduates who are not college ready. Guggenheim follows the history of American schools showing how up until the 1970s American public schools were the best in the world. He shows how the lack of global competition made us look awfully good. Unfortunately schools need to be better then they were fifty years ago, when they were expected to turn out high school classes where 20% of the kids went to college. Nowadays schools need to turn out graduating classes where just about everybody is ready for a four year college--and very few school districts are doing it. To make the story hit home, Guggenheim profiled several students waiting to get into Charter Schools, schools which are run by different rules than most public schools, and have a history of success. Watching these children observe the lottery that will determine whether they can attend, will break your heart. He also profiles Michelle Rhee, the take-no-prisoners Superintendent of the Washington, DC school system. As someone who lives right outside of DC, I have watched Rhee and applauded loudly as she has taken on every special interest that holds back education in Washington, DC. The movie showcases her wins in improving DC test scores. Unfortunately it misses the final chapter of Rhee's career, the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty, who put his own career on the line, in the interest of the children of Washington, DC. Rhee's future in DC is unknown but the incoming Democratic candidate for Mayor, who will run unopposed in November, supports many of the practices that Rhee fought. As Rhee sadly points out, much of this problem is adults not wanting to confront other adults.

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October 18, 2010
Great review! Definitely looking forward to seeing this film.
October 11, 2010
Thanks so much for your comments! I don't know about any of the other areas but they did an excellent job with Washington, DC.
October 11, 2010
excellent review! I've heard mixed reviews about this movie and the school denied that the filmmakers ever visited the area when they shot this movie. I will have to check this one out. Thanks for the review and welcome to Movie Hype! We are so happy to have you on board. :)
More Waiting For Superman reviews
review by . April 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Waiting for Superman is an interesting and somber documentary for its portrayal of the state of education in the United States.  It is interesting, because it depicts the predicament of a number of real students from various backgrounds and areas of the country as their parents attempt to enroll them in a charter school.  It is somber, because it uses statistics and historical data to reveal the desperate condition of education in our society and the crisis that looms because of it.   …
review by . May 30, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Superlative Documentary with a Few Missing Pieces
Waiting for Superman does an unflinching job of diagnosing and illustrating the problems of today's public school system. Citing statistics with great visualization, the focal points, nevertheless, are on about a half dozen candidates for local charter schools across the nation. Beginning and ending with the charter school lottery, the narrator aptly tells us our children's education should not be left to chance. The movie is illuminating for the videos, human interest stories, and headlines …
review by . May 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Documentarian Davis Guggenheim is some kind of miracle worker. He's managed, twice now, to make documentaries that get lots of attention and accolades and even significantly affect the national debate on an important issue, but really, aren't that good. First, there was "An Incovenient Truth," which was an important subject, for sure, but as a film, was hardly more than Al Gore narrating a Powerpoint presentation. Now comes "Waiting for Superman," which, while it is more …
About the reviewer
Robin123 ()
Hello everyone!      Like a lot of you, I just love to read. And, as you will see from my reviews I read some of an awful lot of things. I particularly enjoy American history, biographies, … more
About this movie


Waiting for Superman
 is a 2010 family documentary film from director Davis Guggenheim and producer Lesley Chilcott. The film analyzes the failures of American public education by following several students through the educational system.

The film received the Audience Award for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

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Education, Documentary, Schools, Public Schools, American Public Eduction, Waiting For Superman


Director: Davis Guggenheim
Genre: Documentary
Release Date: January 22, 2010 (Sundance Film Festival)
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes
Studio: Electric Kinney Films
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