Netflix Finds: Waiting For “Superman”

Waiting For “Superman”

Genre:  Documentary
Rating:  4/5 Stars
Recommended To:  Parents, Educators, Those Interested In Politics or Social Work
Special Warnings: None

The mister and I have been on a bit of a documentary kick lately, for no particular reason.  We’ve watched a few good ones as of late, but I’ve decided to point this one out to you, mainly because I’d never heard of it before we stumbled onto it while browsing.

Waiting For “Superman” is a dissection of the American education system, as told through the eyes of teachers frustrated with the parameters within which they work, district superintendents bashing their heads against union contracts and bureaucracies while trying to improve matters, and most of all, children who are caught in the web of rules and lotteries(!), trying to get a decent education and succeed.  It examines the history of policies and procedures that have led to flatlined improvement in testing scores, “drop-out factories”, and teachers with no business holding the title continuing to fail a nation’s children.

I was pretty stunned by several points raised, including the fact that it takes but two years of teaching to be automatically granted tenure – meaning that a teacher can never be fired, even if he is filmed reading the paper for an entire class and ignoring his students, or consistently leaving his students so disadvantaged that they reach high school with a grade three level.  The notion of lotteries to get into charter schools – bastions of positive learning results – also boggled my mind, and also saddened me, as we watch the children profiled in the film attend their respective lotteries – their “last chances” at decent education – and anxiously see if they will defy the odds and be accepted.

Even the drop-out rates at some of these schools were just shocking to me; I knew very few people who didn’t finish at my high school, and I’d say our students were all over the map in terms of grades.  I feel very fortunate to be in Canada, and to have attended my school, where most of the teachers were good ones.  I did know a few assholes – our racist Geography teacher who, in his last semester of teaching, lectured us for 45 minutes on our collective stupidity, told everyone who was failing in the class, and called a student a nigger (yeah…); there was also the History teacher who ruined the subject for me (it used to be a favourite) by droning on, encouraging us to drop out if we didn’t want to be perfectly still and silent and get A’s, etc.; the Science teacher who purposely kept female students after class to talk down to their chests about BS.  But I also knew many, many good teachers who believed in students, who worked to help them succeed, who advocated when they felt standardized provincial test scores were lowballing our skills.

If you’ve ever wondered why things don’t get any better, why people grow to believe they are “just too stupid” or wonder how an awful teacher can still have her job, Waiting For “Superman” has your answers…

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