'Waiting for Superman': Can a Film Help Fix America's Broken Schools?

Sheri Reed

waiting for supermanOprah is touting the film Waiting for Superman as "the movie that can transform America's schools."

Education writer Valerie Strauss for the Washington Post says the "one-sided film adores public charter schools and demonizes traditional public schools, (which still and always will educate the vast majority of the country’s kids)."

So which is it? Well, the film comes to theaters September 24th, so we can all decide for ourselves.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who is portrayed in the Waiting for Superman in an unkind light and as steadfastly against reform, says she cried during the film but that it misses the point. Weingarten argues that reformers' focus should be on improving public schools as a whole instead of on creating charters, which will never serve the majority of kids. Lloyd Grove at The Daily Beast says the movie "by turns maddening and gut-wrenching, is a powerful indictment of America’s mediocre public education system, and also a call to arms."

The new hot topic education documentary was directed by Davis Guggenheim, who shared an Oscar with Al Gore for the global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The film, in short, tracks five families trying to save their children from failing public schools by winning them a spot in celebrated charter and magnet schools via a limited impartial lottery system. The families desperately believe the change of schools is the only hope for their kids' future successes and careers, but the heartbreaking reality is only a few children will be accepted.

The Wonder Woman in Waiting for Superman is Michelle Rhee, Washington, D.C. schools superintendent, who draws a tough line on the district schools she says are providing kids a "crappy education." She takes out bad teachers and bad principals in her efforts toward education reform.

Bill Gates also gets a little screen time in Superman because his foundation gave $2 billion toward several reforms.

Here's the trailer (get out your hankie):

So Waiting for Superman is giving people something to talk about. But will all this chatter ultimately help our schools rise up and most importantly, improve the education of our children? That remains to be seen.

To see more about Waiting for Superman for yourself, catch Oprah's coverage of the movie on her show, Monday, September 20, 2010.

What are your biggest concerns about the broken American school system?


Image via Waiting for Superman

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