Waiting For Superman – A reflection of our times

Waiting For Superman written and directed by Davis Guggenheim
Rating **** 1/2

This documentary on our current education system is an eye opener on a number of grounds. The filmmakers back up their claims about our deteriorating education system with plenty of statistics to show that we are failing in just about every measurable category. You may wonder what happens to the millions of drop-outs and under-educated students that are put out into society. The answer is that they’re present in every work environment. Incompetence is  everywhere. The good news is that it’s never too late to turn things around.

The film follows five young children and their families as they try to get into schools that have a proven success record. And for the most part that means private or non-public schools. It’s a sad truth when a child’s success is tied to either wealth or blind luck.

While the film highlights the many problems with our education system – poor teachers, the teachers union’s influence, financing, economics, parental involvement – it also offers some ideas on how to change things. It does this by highlighting educators and administrators who recognize the problems and are making significant changes  in the education process.

The truth is that anyone can succeed if given the right opportunity. Educator Geoffrey Canada is one person making a difference. As is Michelle Rhee, the head of the Washing D.C. public school system. One area the film highlights is teacher tenure and how the unions make it difficult to get rid of ineffective teachers. To prove that the union’s allegiance lies in protecting jobs and not in improving education, Michelle Rhee proposed a merit based pay system designed to reward good teachers if the union would get rid of tenure. The union leaders wouldn’t even allow the proposal to go to a  vote.

I personally had a lousy education. Partly due to the small town where I grew up and partly due to my own lack of motivation. But somewhere along the line I discovered that learning is an ongoing and never-ending process. I never read a book for enjoyment until I was twenty-three. Now I’m a published author. If you’re motivated to learn not even a lousy teacher is going to stop you.

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