Sunday, March 6, 2011

Waiting For "Superman"

I remember there was a surprise when Waiting For "Superman" did not make the Oscars list of the Top 10 documentaries.  Documentaries do not usually get that much publicity and when one does, such as this one did last year, people naturally expect it to win awards.  But I understand why it was left off.  It's disjointed.  It wanders around and lacks a smooth narrative flow. 

The subject matter is very interesting.  What is wrong with America's schools?  It presents multiple options on why schools fail and seems to settle on the teacher's unions.  The unions are opposed to change and use their power to prevent any of it.  The most amazing section is when a student carrying a secret camera in his backpack shows multiple teachers in his school saying they weren't doing anything that day and sit back and read the newspaper.  The news aired the tape and the superintendent fired the teachers.  However, the teachers had tenure.  Under the contract, the superintendent was forced to rehire these teachers and pay them a year's back pay.  It is nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.  Doctor's and lawyer's commonly lose their licenses for shoddy work, but teachers almost never lose their licenses and can really negatively impact a child's education. 

There is some suspense at the end when the handful of individual students the film followed are waiting to find out if they made it into charter schools, but the overall impact of the students falling through the cracks and failing schools does not really hit home.  There are plenty of scenes to make the audience upset and wish for change, but it ultimately falls flat.

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