‘Waiting for Superman’ Review: A Masterpiece of Moral Clarity

John Nolte
Big Hollywood
9/28/2010

Waiting for ‘Superman’” is not only the most important documentary made in many a year but it might also help to restore a little of your faith in humanity, and I’m not even talking about the movie itself, which I’ll get to in a bit. I’m talking about its creator Davis Guggenheim, best known for directing and winning the Oscar for Al Gore’s alarmist global warming screed “An Inconvenient Truth.” In an era when, in order to hold on to power and take control of our lives, the Left tells Big Lies just as quickly as they can make them up, along comes Guggenheim, an acknowledged pro-union liberal, to take on the most powerful, and in my opinion destructive, special interest group in America: the national teachers union.

Whatever his personal beliefs were as he began the process of documenting the fate of five children whose very futures rest on the less-than 10% chance of being accepted into a charter school, in the end Guggenheim risks the grave sin of apostasy as he courageously bucks the left-wing narrative to present a heartbreaking and damning exposé of the American public school system.

Had the exact same film been brought forth by a right-winger it would have had zero chance of creating any kind of national debate, much less change. But coming with Guggenheim’s clout and left-wing bona fides, there’s a chance his noble effort could spread a Road to Damascus virus among those who have for too long turned a blind eye towards an indefensibly immoral system propped up at the expense of children. Armed with facts and actual inconvenient truths, “Superman” deconstructs every lie told by politicians, union officials and bad teachers in defense of a status quo that destroys as many, if not more lives than drugs or gangs…

…To Guggenheim’s credit, a large part of his documentary focuses on what can and does work. If the film has a real-life Superman it’s Geoffrey Canada, a Harvard-educated reformer who intentionally chose the worst school district in the country to start a charter school in order to prove his belief that regardless of socio-economic background, with attentive teachers doing what it takes to make sure no child falls behind, these kids can be ready for college. Currently his Harlem-based charter school is producing much better graduation rates and a much higher percentage of students ready for college than the average suburban school.

If there’s a Superwoman, Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee is it. Her tireless fight against an intractable union culminates in the ridiculous and the tragic when the union refuses to even allow for a vote a proposal that could potentially double teacher salaries if in exchange they agree to accountability by giving up the tenure (earned after only three years) that makes it virtually impossible to fire them for anything. In one incredible aside, we learn that the State of New York spends $100 million a year on teachers who have been removed from the classroom for a potential fire-able offense and, while being paid full salary and benefits, hang out all day in what’s called the “Rubber Room” playing cards and reading newspapers as they’re put through a termination process that rarely results in termination.

Guggenheim doesn’t slam teachers, though. In fact, he has an enormous amount of respect for what they do and believes the good ones need to be paid better. But as one person informs us, the problem is that the unions see it as “a teacher, is a teacher, is a teacher,” and they fight tooth-and-nail against any proposal involving pay based on merit and make it impossible to get rid of the 6-10% of bad teachers who are shuffled from school to school and literally destroy lives by allowing their students to fall so far behind they eventually lose hope and drop out. If you’re looking for context, the national average of doctors and lawyers who lose their license is somewhere around 1 in 75, for teachers it’s a jaw-dropping 1 in 2500…

Read the entire article at Big Hollywood!

Comments are closed.