Quickcard Review Waiting for 'Superman'
Directed by: Davis Guggenheim Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins Rating: PG Release Date: October 8, 2010
PLOT: A documentary by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim shows us the current state of our education. We see five children as they struggle to make it in our schools. Public schools, teachers and other possibilities are all examined to see where the solution lies.
WHO'S IT FOR? If you're a teacher, this film might be difficult to sit through. If you're looking for a starting point to understand what the children of this nation go through, this documentary is for you.
Class, can I have your attention? I give you total and complete permission to skip this opening paragraph. The reason I am granting such an allowance is because in these first sentences I will only be discussing the title of the film, Waiting for 'Superman'. It's awful. My first reason is completely petty. Every time I type "Superman" I must use quotes. That's right, the documentary didn't secure the rights, or is honoring the superhero or something like that. If I do it in bold, it needs to look like this -- Waiting for 'Superman'. If I did it with quotes all around it would need to look like this -- "Waiting for 'Superman'". Do you know how much extra work that is? Very little. But still, it doesn't serve I high enough purpose. Mainly because if you talk to a stranger (and I highly recommend you do) and say to them, "Guess what Waiting for 'Superman' is about." They wouldn't guess "public education" unless they had already read about the film. Documentaries rarely get the attention that other films do, so the title should have something to do with the subject. Geoffrey Canada is an educator featured in the film and he tells the story when he was a child and his mother told him Superman wasn't real. It's not a good enough reason to make me type out the extra quotes. Plus, think about all of the mistaken people who thought they might get to see a superhero flick. Now you've upset the very masses who you want to have sit through your film. Now, since I have complained for a couple hundred words, I have to provide an alternative title. It's only fair. Education Nation, Left Behind or Teach Me are the choices of the top of my head.
And now, onto the show ...
Children are our future. You know this, I know this, the American people know this. The case that Waiting for 'Superman' is making is that our current public education system isn't working.
There are some facts here that will smack you and wake you up if you start to drift asleep. More than 600 teachers in New York City receive full pay while being declared "unfit" to teach. American students aren't even in the top ten with test scores, but they are number one in confidence. These things fire you up, but rarely do we actually see a villain. If we're waiting for superman, don't we need a villain? The teacher's union is close to being that villain, but we don't really even get to hear the other side to speak. The teacher's union leader has one or two lines in this film. What seems proven is that unions are bad, mainly because of tenure. It seems proven, but that's only because it's said so many time. Doesn't tenure also help make sure some qualified older teachers don't lose their jobs because new teachers are cheaper?
The 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 used animation to show a quick history of the United States that served great purpose in it's overall message. The animation in this film is just something else to look at. It doesn't provide specific insight or humor. In fact, the humor mainly just comes from TV clips from "The Simpsons" or "Welcome Back, Kotter." What I'm saying is, the film has a very important message (save our schools) but it doesn't tell it very dynamically. It is easy to feel for the children in the documentary. It's terrible that a kid who is eager to learn isn't given a fair shot, or must depend on a lottery ball to get into a quality school. I only teared up once, and I'm typically ready to open up the water works when kids are being forgotten/left behind.
Plus, the film rarely provides us with solutions. Change is difficult. We need change. Some charter schools have success when administrators and teachers work together. Some. Not all. When I heard about a documentary that could do for our schools, what An Inconvenient Truth did for the environment, I was excited. Perhaps that's too high of a standard. Waiting for 'Superman' might have felt like it needed to be the first messenger, but I already knew our schools were falling behind. Now I am waiting for more solutions.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10