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Our Students Need a Union of Their Own

  • Apr 18, 2011
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.

In selecting students from LA, the Bay Area, Harlem, the Bronx, and Washington DC, Guggenheim communicates the broad nature of the problem.  Our educational issues are not isolated to a couple of states.  This is a national issue.

As with all movies, this documentary has a point of view and agenda it is attempting to promote.  With that in mind, I believe Waiting for Superman is very evenhanded in its approach.  Educators are clearly portrayed as heroes and the history of the need to protect their interests is developed.  However, Guggenheim feels that modern teachers unions have become too powerful and are impeding real reform in education today.  Given the success of certain charter schools, he believes the problem can demonstrably be solved.  With such a solution at hand, the issue is that most students cannot gain access to these successful models of education because of the scarcity of charter school openings.  The powerful teachers unions prevent these successful models from being implemented in non-charter schools.  That is his main point.

This documentary is very important, in that it does a great job of exposing the sad state of education and the mostly likely contributor to it.  Hopefully many people will see this movie and public discourse will be stimulated in order to attempt to address the problem from a new perspective.  It is not news that education is broken, but Guggenheim refutes the common wisdom that pumping more money into this broken system will fix it.  No amount of money is going to make a corrupt and failed system successful.

I agree that public education is broken and cannot be fixed within the current union constraints.  Certain charter school models have been proven to be successful and reproducible.  Parents in the United States have many options for the education of their children:  public school, private school, and homeschooling.  For those parents that choose public education, the options are extremely limited.  Most public schools are constrained and controlled by failed and destructive union policies.  Public schools free of these failed and destructive policies are few and far between.  Either the public schools need to be reformed along the successful charter school models or more parents need to choose private or home schooling for the good of their children.

Waiting for Superman powerfully makes this point:

Education is supposed to be about the students, but the modern unions have made it about the teachers to the ruin of the students.

How sadly ironic.  Maybe our students need a union of their own.

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April 18, 2011
I heard that this doco had angered several sides of the union and the school superintendents. When that happens, I think it comes closer to the truth. I need to make time and see this soon. Thanks for the review, David!
More Waiting For Superman reviews
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 . October 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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 …
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David P. Nesbitt ()
Soul: The first thing to know about me is that my worldview is decidedly Christian. Therefore, my chief end in life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. My content on this site and my life in general … more
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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, Waiting For Superman, American Public Eduction


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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