Waiting For Superman takes an extremely honest look at the American Public School System. This film looks at all aspect of public education from traditional public schools to charter schools. This movies focus is the how and why our public education system is failing kids in todays generation. For parts of the film director Davis Guggenheim focuses in on one family from Harlem New York. Francisco a first grader is at a failing public school in his district and his mother Maria. Maria decides she wants a better education for her son and beings a long journey in trying to find him a better public school option. She decides to visit a Charter school across the city knowing that she has a very small chance in getting her son a spot in next years second grade class. In minute 56:15 Guggenheim pans to Maria sitting on the subway showing the viewer how hard it is going to be to get her son to school everyday if he ends up at this charter school. Guggenheim depicts Maria as the worried mother she is helping represent the other thousands of families struggling to get their child the education they deserve.
Once Maria arrives at the Charter schools the mood of the film changes. Showing halls filled with students and classrooms with attentive teachers. This moment really struck me. On minute 57:43 we see Maria in a Charter School classroom for the fist time and her face lights up saying that this is a completely different world then the one her son is in. You get a feeling of hope for Maria and Francisco in his moment.
Guggenheim then pans to the actual classroom scene happening in front of us. You see a completely different environment than the one showed in Francisco’s school in his district. All the students are in matching uniforms and have attentive interactive teachers. Guggenheim uses this example to show how our education system can thrive with the right teachers and structure within a school. This scene makes the viewer realize how much change is needed within American public schools to become successful.
Though Waiting For Superman points out many flaws within the school system Richard D. Kahlenberg has some issues surround the portrayal of teachers unions within the film with Smarter Charter. On minute 39:55 Jeffery Canada lays out issues surrounding progress within public schools and the issue of being unable to work together with teachers unions to do so. Kahlenberg states that reformers should not isolate teachers unions from being able to create change. The intersection of the two is the correct way to come about change instead of blaming teachers unions for the inability to change which is what Guggenheim was depicts within the film. Also within Smarter Charter Kahlenberg critics the effectiveness of the idea of Charter schools. Kahlenberg argues that Charter schools test scores are not always better than those of traditional public schools (Kahlenberg 67). Kahlenberg states that the mind set towards Charter schools should not be that they continuously out preform traditional public education Kahlenberg thinks that the answer to better education is change within each individual school surrounding leadership, teaching, and attention to the student’s needs.
Guggenheim, Davis. Waiting for “Superman.” 2010. Film.
Kahlenberg, Richard D., Potter, Halley. A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education. Teachers Collee Press. 2014. Print.