The documentary style movie Waiting for Superman is a movie about five children in the American education system and their journeys in finding schools with quality education, and teachers who support their goals. Although the movie is almost 10 years old, it recalls statistics and facts regarding the educational system and its flaws, while also addressing the ways in which we have tried to fix it.
While viewing first hand the American education system, the audience gathers what makes a school good, and why some schools are not good. Key characteristics that cause a school to be great include good teachers, money, and support for students. Support for students can be tutoring, one-on-one teaching, and support of a student and their goals on a personal level. There are many factors that come into play in making a school great including, but not limited to teachers who care, a goal-oriented school board, financial support from the local and state governments, and parents who are active in their children’s schooling. Unfortunately, the most important of all of these is money. Great public schools only really exist in high income areas. This is because students from high income neighborhoods have more funding from the government because they score higher on their tests.
The schools documented in Waiting for Superman were low performing, ultimately making that the theme of the movie. The characteristics of chronically low performing schools include low income, tenure, different regulations between local, state and federal governments, and lack of support. Although all of these factors are important, tenure and different regulations are probably the most important. Teachers can achieve a guaranteed position in a school district after two years of teaching. This system is flawed because now teachers who are just bad, do not care, and who may even lack empathy have a say so in the future of our children. And because of teacher unions, it is almost impossible for a teacher to ever get fired. Another issue is the regulations within the different levels of government. The federal government creates a basis of how things should be, and the states have the choice to execute it as they please. Therefore, there is no even playing field in the public school system.
The last issue, though still just as important that the document brought up, was factors beyond the school itself, such as the community surrounding the school. Low performing schools tended to be from low income areas with community violence, inadequate health care, and substandard housing. Students that grow up in a low income area, and attend low income schools often just continue in the cycle and end up not going to college and living a low income life. The opposite cycle exists for students who grow up in and attend high performance schools in better areas. Therefore, the relationship between successful schools and their communities is based on financial income. Low income is worse for everyone involved.
Personally, I enjoyed the movie Waiting for Superman despite how utterly heart wrenching it was to watch. It made me angry and I wanted to walk into the White House and change the whole thing, but obviously that is easier said than done. I think it was a well executed film, and I hope that its message has sparked change in it’s audience. I pray that the facts and statistics have only improved in the last 10 years, because we deserve a better educational system for our children.
The movie "Waiting for Superman" can be rented on YouTube or streamed on Hulu