Movie Review Rewind: Waiting for Superman (2010)
If you have children in school or about to enter the school system then you need to see Waiting for Superman. If you have no kids or your kids have made it through school, you still need to see Waiting for Superman. Everyone needs to see Waiting for Superman.
This documentary is an eye-opening experience about schools and education crumbling in the United States. Filmmaker and Academy Award Winner Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) gives us numbers and statistics, but also faces to put with all of that. Anthony, Bianca, Daisy, Emily, and Francisco have dreams of being someone and having a better life than their parents. It is their journey and stories that make Waiting for Superman heartbreaking yet hopeful. For them and a bunch of other kids, the only way they can further their education and be better off for it is having their number called out in a random lottery. Their education and their future is all riding on luck.
There are numerous arguments about the failure of the school system. They deal with the child’s parent or their child’s misbehavior or distractions. Maybe it is where they live and how much they make a year. Or there are too many bad teachers out there. And they are a part of unions that make it too easy for them so they half-ass teach or just read the paper while their students go crazy. There are examples in this documentary of teachers doing just that.
The truth is all of the above can affect how a child performs at school. Director Guggenheim tries to get answers from several people including the parents and their children, professors, and politicians. Either way, it is no secret that our school systems are unsuccessful and Guggenheim shows us how, where and why these deficiencies are occurring and possible ways to fix or improve them.
There are two people who represent signs of hope for our schools in the future. Reformer Geoffrey Canada (also Harvard-educated) goes back home to New York and takes over 97 blocks in Harlem and creates Harlem Children’s Zone. The section he took over has the highest unemployment and foster care rates in the city with a high percentage of violence and crime. While it seemed crazy at first, he changed that area in to a place where kids get the opportunity to learn and give them a sense of hope.
Then there is Michelle Rhee, the Chancellor of the Washington, D.C., school systems who becomes the most hated person there real quick. She begins shaking up the school systems immediately by firing teachers and principals who were under-performing, including her child’s own principal. She is a gutsy woman who went on the attack. She is looking to do something about the problem rather than just talk about it.
Waiting for Superman is exactly what these kids are doing. The kids and their parents are wanting a hero. They are waiting on a miracle. And people like Canada and Rhee give inspiration to them and hopefully there are more people out there who will follow.
This documentary will make you angry, disappointed, and sad for the kids, but Waiting for Superman offers good ideas on making a change and wanting to improve the education system in our country. If not for your own kids then for someone else’s. American kids rank 25th in math and 21st in science among 30 developed countries. That has to be a wake-up call for all of us and make us doubt every day any kid goes to school. Waiting for Superman is about teaching but will teach us a thing or two as well.
Brandon Vick is a member of The Music City Film Critics’ Association, the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and the star of The Vick’s Flicks Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.