Documentaries about education don’t often make a big splash at the box office, but the media buzz around the new documentary Waiting for “Superman” has been building steadily over the past few months.
The film, directed by Academy Award-winning director David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), focuses on the United States’ failing public education system by telling the stories of five children who hope to escape public schools by entering a lottery for a few coveted spots in a high-performing charter school. This grueling lottery is seen through the eyes of Daisy, Francisco, Emily, Anthony and Bianca, real children who desperately want a better education than their local public schools can offer.
Waiting for “Superman” has received many rave reviews and has inspired stories in major media outlets, including Time and New York magazines and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“This movie isn’t just a necessity (listen up, do-nothing politicians) — it might change your future,” said Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers.
Waiting for “Superman” has also received its fair share of criticism, from those who say Guggenheim has depicted an overly simplified version of the problems in our country’s education system—offering privately managed charter schools as the magic solution to replace failing public schools, without considering other factors such as school funding, poverty, race, teacher retention or problems associated with school privatization and the over-reliance on test scores.
In her piece “The Myth of Charter Schools” in The New York Review of Books, Diane Ravitch pointed to statistics from a national study of charter schools: “Only one in five charter schools is able to get the ‘amazing results’ that it celebrates…17 percent were superior to a matched traditional public school; 37 percent were worse than the public school; and the remaining 46 percent had academic gains no different from that of a similar public school.”
Whether you agree or disagree with the message of Waiting for “Superman,” it has brought attention to the need to discuss and find solutions to problems within our education system for the sake of our children.
Have you seen the film yet, or are you planning to?