Review: ‘Waiting for Superman’

With reports of United States students falling behind most countries in government education while paying out record-high expenses per child, a close look at the current system is all it takes to consider making a real change.

It’s difficult to encourage sending a child to college when they’re unable to finish or drop out of high school. Seemingly with only a handful of worthy teachers actually encouraging their students to learn, the overwhelming majority of students appear to have been left to encourage themselves or be passed ahead to become another instructor’s problem. With rules and regulations stacked to keeping teachers employed rather than educating kindergarten through grade twelve students, motivated educators and concerned parents are attempting alternatives to prove that the system is broken and that a better way exists.

It’s been reported that US public schools were never designed to prepare students for college, merely to join the work force and become competent employees. With high tech industries in need better trained employees, businesses too often have to look outside the country to find help because US students don’t have the aptitude or degrees to compete. Schools are opening that could help students, but a lack of state funding in part held up by teacher’s unions means that only a select few, chosen by lottery, will ever get the chance to better themselves in an encouraging, student-oriented learning environment. The documentary suggests that too often people wait for others to act or “waiting for Superman” to fix everything, but this is really a job for the nation.

The documentary suggests over twenty years of observation, reports, and statistics showing the decline of student performance in neglected school districts. Tenured teachers (those who have been employed a requisite number of years) are often by contract unable to be fired regardless of performance, creating a void of education that some school systems have taken to rotating around in the hopes of getting anyone better. As part of a government union, teachers understand that privatized schools don’t have to follow the union rules, but if they can prove that they can outperform government schools on the same or less money, tenured or not, their days are numbered. While fighting in any way possible to discredit such initiatives, it is the students who appear to be suffering.

Following a sampling of children throughout the production, the ending details the eager students and hopeful parents waiting to hear if their number has come up in the school lottery. Few make it in, dooming the rest to the way things have always been while a select few are given the chance to excel. It’s intentionally heartbreaking, but teacher’s union have countered that uncredited instructors in so-called private schools are little more than scams looking to steal government funds. Even if that’s true, is it really any worse than what kids have to look forward to now?

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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