Screenwriter Dream Movie Review: Waiting For Superman

I was a lucky little girl growing up. Anything we dreamed of being seemed within reach. We were always taught that through education, anything was possible. And we had good schools to go to. Top notch teachers, small class sizes and a curriculum that enriched every student with the knowledge needed to pass each grade.

That was the case many years ago. Sadly, today’s public school system is lacking in so many ways. And this movie showcases what’s wrong with it and how some talented people have discovered some solutions.

WAITING FOR SUPERMAN

“Waiting for Superman” is a gritty expose that reveals the failure of America’s public school education and the detrimental affect it has on our nation.

Davis Guggenheim (Academy Award winner for director of “An Inconvenient Truth”) narrates this eye opening documentary on our failure to properly educate our children. He expresses the guilt he feels each morning as he drives past three different substandard schools on his way to drop his children off at a private school.

This film follows five inner city students (from LA, NY and Washington D.C.) along their journey in garnering an education that will open doors for them to fulfill their dreams of a career they’ve been striving for. Unfortunately, the only doors they will be going through are the ones at poorly performing middle and high schools called “Dropout Factories” for their failure to graduate students.

Guggenheim asks us how things have gone so wrong and reveals multiple reasons for it:

  • A lack of accountability both in the schools and at home.
  • Mismanagement of state and federal funds.
  • Too many obstacles to overcome to make cogent educational reform.
  • Too many tenured teachers that are working at a subpar level.
  • The formidable teacher unions, NEA and AFT who protect tenured teachers, regardless of their performance.
  • The “Lemon Dance” that is played out when the teacher’s union reassigns underperforming teachers from one school to another. (This reminds me of the Catholic Church who moves priests who abuse children from one parish to another)
  • We are putting too much money into the prison system. 68% of prisoners are dropouts. It costs $32,00 a year to house a prisoner. Times that by four=$132,000. Imagine using that money by sending a child to a private school @ $8,300 annually for thirteen years=$107,900!
  • While 1% of lawyers and 2% of doctors lose their job for incompetence, a paltry 1 in 2,500 teachers EVER face firing!

Thankfully, there are people in authority that truly care for the welfare and education of our youth. Michelle Rhee was Washington DC Chancellor until a week ago. She challenged the teacher’s union by firing 241 teachers and putting 737 of them on notice to improve within a year or quit.

She favored measuring the quality of a teacher by their students scores. Ms. Rhee believed in merit pay-rewarding teachers whose students were excelling. The unions balked and last week Ms. Rhee resigned. Even though U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan declared in a statement called Rhee “a pivotal leader in the school reform movement,” the powerful voice of the union triumphed.

The most encouraging player in this movie is educational reformer Geoffrey Canada CEO/President of Harlem Children’s Zone, the successful leader of a trio of charter schools. His school attracts the best, most motivated teachers. He has implemented tutoring for those students who need help in a certain subject until they are at school level. Teachers support teachers and there is a lot of parent participation.

When he was little, he believed in Superman and was saddened to learn that “there was no one coming with the power to save us.” His mother told him that life was hard and if he wanted to accomplish something important in life, he would have to do it himself.

The movie ends with a heart wrenching scene. Well meaning parents know that the chances of their children succeeding in life is to win one of those precious few spots in a charter school. In their respective gyms, parents and children are at the mercy of a lottery. They pin their hopes and dreams for their children with the roll of a ball (a real crapshoot). As a name is called out, there is sadly one less chance for their loved ones to be accepted, leaving their future in doubt. The anguished looks on the faces of the children whose numbers aren’t called will be seared into my brain for a long time.

This Oscar worthy documentary written by screenwriter Billy Kimball places the blame at the feet of a greedy teacher’s union who seem to not give a damn about ensuring that every child deserves a solid education.

This film should be seen by everyone who has an interest in education and how that system has miserably failed our children. These same children that will one day be running our country. It should be shown in Congress and the Senate. Maybe then the wheels of change can begin to turn and start to overhaul this broken down system, what we call school.

Check out: www.waitingforsuperman.com if you want to get involved.

Do you have any successful schools in your area? What are they doing that makes their schools excel?

See you at the movies –

Toni

Toni’ placed her dream to get her screenplay, “Divine Intervention” and reality show, “The Bitter Bus” produced on hold while she works on Club B. Toni left 8 Women dream November 2010 to work on Club B full-time.

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  • Toni Schram

    Those teachers who are investigated go through a lengthy process. When they’ve been accused of misconduct, they report with other “offenders” to a classroom. They continue to receive pay and spend eight hours playing cards, reading and listening to music while they await their fate. These cases can take 2-3 months.

    And after all those investigations, only 1 in 2500 teachers are fired!

    Truly sad, isn’t it?

    Love ya-
    Toni

  • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

    I love John legend. I attended 12 years of catholic school. I have also sent my son to catholic school as well, so I don’t have a hands on experience of public education. His school now has a huge parent involvement program, so I cant imagine ever sending my son to school where I couldn’t volunteer doing something (field trips, snack bar, fund raisers, photography etc)… I do know as a former state worker and current business woman, I worry alot about the power of unions, and that stat u give about 1 in 2500 is scary. Something has to be done. I want to see this movie soon! xox Rem

  • Oh my goodness don’t get me started on this subject. I have to say Brian has had the most amazing teachers since junior high, but grade school was a real problem for me. I was amazed at how many bad teachers (mean, cruel, unorganized, angry) there were at the grade school level. Yes, there are many, many great, wonderful, awesome teachers out there, but I was surprised to see ones that were not effective still teaching. Brian’s 2nd grade teacher was pulled out finally for assaulting a 2nd grader – she had a known history of verbal abuse. His 4th and 6th grade teachers hated boys. Recently I heard there is a petition out to get the 4th grade teacher removed from her position for being verbally abusive to 4th grade boys and girls in her class. I was shocked to see this in grade schools when children are so impressionable about who they are. Since entering 7th grade on into high school – all of Brian’s teachers have been great, absolutely great. And I think these great teachers just don’t get enough recognition for the outstanding job they do. I am looking forward to seeing this movie.

    • Toni Schram

      My sons lucked out with great teachers as well but there are so many that aren’t as lucky.

      I implore EVERYONE to see this movie.

      John Legend was so moved by this film that he asked how he could help. He ended up writing and singing the song that is played as the credits roll.