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October 5, 2010 > Movie Review: Waiting for Superman

Movie Review: Waiting for Superman

By Jennifer Gau

Kids are vulnerable and rely on their parents to raise them in a healthy environment. They do not know all the facts, and see the world through their parent's filter. Not all parents have the means to send their kids to the best schools. As a result, parents blame teachers for their children's poor education and teachers blame parents for their student's poor education. Does it matter anymore who is the blame?

Director Davis Guggenheim follows the track of five families as they plan and hope for their kids' eventual college graduation. His directing style is frank and factual. The documentary presents a lottery system as a method of determining who deserves a chance at a better education. Images of fences pop up throughout the documentary, representing the physical barrier faced by families across the nation; they can see what is available for other people, but not for themselves. Only the lucky select few are able to feel the equivalent to winning the lottery. There are other options to public schools, such as charter schools and private schools. However, there are more eager students than capable teachers, so many are left out.

The film flows smoothly starting with where the title "Waiting for Superman" comes from, who is affected by the educational system, roadblocks in the system, solutions tried in the past, and ends with the inescapable reality that there is a much work to be done. The first step is awareness. This documentary is truly a project well done, capturing interviews with key people. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, chimed in about the economic effects on companies who end up hiring employees from India and China because their educational background has prepared them better than American students. Education is not a topic that gives the nation much pride when compared to competing countries around the world.

Just like "An Inconvenient Truth" (2006), "Waiting for 'Superman'" confronts U.S. citizens with a necessary piece of knowledge for fixing our educational system. Charts and graphics hit home when pointing out how we have fallen into a dangerous cycle as a nation. President after president has promised drastic change for the better, to no avail. Children need a good educational foundation to fit in society, and those who do not have the opportunity, or fall behind, carry on the same distaste for the educational system and pass it on to the generations who come after them. It creates a heavy burden for society to pay in taxes.

Guggenheim reveals why public school math and reading levels have not changed since the 1970's. Educators and reformers are up against organizations, teachers' unions, and bureaucracies in this crisis. Education is a tough subject to tackle, for it easier to fail rather than succeed. The nation's schools need Superman's supernatural power to save them from this dysfunctional system. If you're wondering what part you play, it would be to watch this movie.

Runtime: 1 hour 42 minutes
Rated: PG

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