I have recently been challenged with a life looming question. What would one do to keep, maintain, nurture and help life’s most enduring treasures? I struggle with that question as I am confident that often times, some of us are moved to go beyond, and do more we ever imagined. There is another question though; what is society’s greatest treasure. Waiting for Superman claims the answer to that question is our children. In the exploration of that claim is the understanding that our schools, and the system of education is doing more harm for many than good, and thus we have an exploration as to the problems, the causes, the issues, the solutions, and the hopes of our educational system.
Waiting for Superman is the documentary that raised eyebrows across America with its theatrical release. Now in DVD release the movie is opening even more eyes, and the special features add to the story with schools and situations not seen in the movie. There are also updates on various individuals featured in the movie. While not blended into the story as an extended version, the stories and situations are still there in a captivating, thought provoking call to action.
Waiting for Superman starts off with the realization that while we may be waiting for Superman due to the seemingly impossible situation we are in regarding education, the reality is, Superman isn’t real and isn’t going to show up. The conclusion the makers of this film quickly come to is it is up to us to solve the problem of a poor educational system that potentially spells doom for America’s children. As the husband of an educator in the public school system for over 30 years now, I have been engaged in many discussions, I have seen many things around the public school sector, not only through the eyes of a parent, but through the eyes of a husband whose wife has felt the call to teach in public school. In those capacities, I quickly begin to see, understand and believe in many of the premises set forth by the documentarians of this film. I understand the seriousness of the issues presented and the reasoning why individuals from all sides of the political spectrum have come forth to support this movie.
Waiting for Superman follows the plights of various families to seek more for their children in the educational system. Prior to this part of the film is the presentation of how schools are failing and the impact on America’s children. We see everything from the politicalization of educators and politicians to the unionization of teachers that prevents in many situations the termination of educators who fail to teach due to the policies of tenure. While there are no technical components of the film to brag about and a few glitches in the editing process, there is still no doubt, the story, investigation, and the inspiration to the viewer to do more, insist on more, and ultimately fight more for our children is clear. As a society, we may be hurting our children more than helping them through the educational systems in place that do more harm than good. It isn’t that teachers as a whole are intentionally doing harm. But when a system is in place which prevents teaching, and refuses to reward those who do a good job because of the process of tenure and union decisions, and then keeps teachers who do bad jobs, then we have to question the way we do education. As a documentary, Waiting for Superman builds a compelling, thought provoking argument; there is more that can, and should be done to improve the educational system.
In looking at this movie, I was reminded of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus emphasized throughout his life the importance of children, both from a figurative and literal perspective. There is no doubt as to the importance of children and the role adults have in providing for, training, and helping children. I couldn’t help but wonder are we doing our best to provide for the children in our educational system? Is our educational system the best it can be? There is numerous challenges parents face in the education of their children. Unfortunately, the system is not set up to assist the parents in those challenges.
I have to admit, at one time I was somewhat critical of the concepts of Home School education, and then I met a family from Colorado, the Holbrook’s. Andrew and Lynn Holbrook raised their children, but among those receiving recognition are four sisters which have formed the band SHEL. They are receiving national recognition for their music. These four beautiful, intelligent young ladies give credence to the benefits of home schooling in a way I had never personally witnessed. They are well rounded, and have learned to apply their education to their lives in a quite positive way. I’ll never forget Lynn, the mother telling my wife of their respect of someone like her who also teaches in the Public School sector. ‘We are so glad that public schools have teachers like you Mary Jane. The schools need teachers that care.’ There was more to the conversation than that, but they were so right. I also understand though, that just as ew need teachers that care, we need parents that care. Public schools need teachers that care, but they also need an environment that allows the good teachers to do their jobs. The bottom line, the Holbrook’s has done what they felt best to provide for their children. There are many other parents doing their best to provide a quality education for their children. Unfortunately, there are many children who don’t have parents who are doing their best, and many who may not even care. In those situations, something has to be done to see to it that the best possible means of helping our children and their future is provided. Waiting for Superman address these issues full force ahead.
Many parents are looking for the best options for their children; many others realize the impact on not just children, but society. I appreciated that Waiting for Superman shows that more money is not necessarily the solution to the problem. There are other solutions; one solution is in keeping and rewarding good teachers, and getting rid of bad teachers who simply don’t care. The children deserve the best, and unfortunately, in a system where lotteries are often used to place children in the best schools, it is wrong when other children don’t get the same opportunities. Waiting for Superman challenges us to do more, not only for our own children but for all children. When we do this, not only will the children benefit, but we as a nation will. While there are many arguments some educators use to support the system, Waiting for Superman takes on those arguments straight ahead, unapologetically and in a convincing way.
When it comes to documentary movies, Waiting for Superman is unique because it not only educates the viewer; it challenges the viewer to do more. This movie has become a movement for the improvement of the educational system. It will be interesting to see if that momentum continues with the release of the DVD, which is well packaged, and worth owning. I for one hope the momentum snowballs and we continue to see a better, and brighter future in education provided for the youth of America. One thing is certain, if things don’t improve, we as a nation are in trouble, and our youth deserve the hope and promise of a brighter future. Hopefully the adults care enough to see to it that the youth of American get what they deserve, a chance not just for a job, but a career.
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