The concept of the US school system is a foreign one to me – literally. While I have a solid understanding of how the educational system works in Canada (well, actually, Ontario as education is governed on a provincial level in Canada), I have no idea how things work in the US. A few years ago, I met a teacher from California and she explained the concept of “No Child Left Behind” and the ramifications, as she saw it, to the educational system. Other than that, I had always assumed that the educational system in the United States was the same as the one in Canada. After watching Waiting for Superman, I learned that my assumptions were correct on some fronts and very different in others.
Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim (best known for his work on An Inconvenient Truth) looks at the American public education system in Waiting for Superman. Referred to as “an electrifying call to action” by Peter Travers of Rolling Stone Magazine, the movie looks at the education system from a variety of angles.
Waiting for Superman examines a number of failings in the public school system and personalizes the issues through the lives of five elementary-school children in different parts of the United States. These children (and their parents) want better lives and feel that their local public schools won’t provide those opportunities so they participate in a lottery system to try and get into charter schools that they think will be better option for their futures.
I find the entire documentary both thought-provoking and disturbing at the same time. The whole issue of breaking down unions as a way of improving the education system really bothered me. I think that it would solve some problems and simultaneously cause other problems. From my understanding, teachers are not well-paid in the US so to take away their job security in addition to a low rate of pay does not, in my mind, lead to a stronger educational system.
I found Waiting for Superman enlightening but I hope that viewers will watch with an open mind and a critical eye. Like many documentaries, Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman has an obvious point of view and uses a number of tools to evoke an emotional response. I like documentaries that challenge my way of thinking and, for that, I think that Waiting for Superman provides an interesting (though obviously biased) take on a complex subject.