Waiting for Superman

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David Guggenheim director of Waiting for Superman showcases the hardships of our nation’s education system. He begins his film reflecting on his former film, Teach. Guggenheim realizes the heroic job teachers, especially teachers in the public school education; take on is one that not everyone is capable of. Teachers in the film Teach sacrifice many endless nights of sleep in order to ensure that every child gets a “decent” education. However, as anyone may realize, ensuring that every child be on track is, for the most part, nonrealistic. Therefore, students get pushed through the system. Geoffrey Canada, charter school advocate, describes the idea that parents, students, and potential educators wanting to believe in their schools, forcing them to take a leap of faith. As Guggenheim continues his film, he follows various stories of different situations students and parents must face through the public education system.

While all stories carried their own uniqueness, Bianca’s story struck me. Nakia and Bianca are from Harlem, New York; Nakia is in the 5th grade receiving a catholic school education. Backtracking, Nakia, Bianca’s mother, reflects on how she got to where she is. She expresses that she never expected to have kids. However, when Bianca came into her life, she knew that she wanted Bianca to have more opportunity than she had growing up, in limelight to education. Nakia states, “I don’t care what I have to do. I don’t care how many jobs I have to obtain. But she will go to college. And there’s no second-guessing on it. You go to college. Learn, you get your education. And you don’t get a job, you get a career. That there is a difference” (Guggenheim 16:18). In this scene the director showed how the mother and daughter interacted with each other demonstrating how Bianca shows her mother her schoolwork. This could imply that Nakia is very much involved in Bianca’s school life and will do anything, besides paying for an alternative schooling (compared to traditional schools) in order to see excellence from Bianca. One could only hope that the way Nakia showcases her drive for her daughter’s education that other parents do so as well.

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Throughout the film, it is clear how Guggenheim emphasizes the importance of alternative methods within our educational system. Having speakers like Geoffery Canada and displaying successful charter schools like KIPP describe to his audience how important charter schools are for the public. Nonetheless, the film does demonstrate how the lottery, presented by various charter schools, only provide false hopes for many urban families looking to improve their child(ren)’s education. Similar to Kahlenberg and Potter, both author and director acknowledge the hardships and risk families have when applying to charter schools. The idea of more resources, more one-on-one time, and less test orientated education exhibits the ideal schooling compared to the schooling these families are provide with (their failing schools). Kahlenberg and Potter, while agreeing that the lottery is not the most effective system for charter school, they talk about it in light of the problem of segregation. In Kahlenberg and Potter’s chapter “Charter Schools that Integrate Students”, they state “…one of the reasons why we need more diverse charter schools, but the lottery system is also a remainder of why charter schools alone cannot solve the problem of segregation in public schools” (Kahlenberg and Potter 134). Looking at both standpoints. It is very interesting that both authors and director acknowledge the lottery; however, it is interesting to see the priorities individuals within the education world stand in terms of what they see as importance.

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Guggenheim, Davis. Waiting for “Superman.” 2010. Film.

Kahlenberg, Richard D., and Halley Potter. A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.