Excellent Critique of “Waiting for Superman”

In Education, Film on September 24, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I was hoping not to post anything today but after reading an article from Huffington Post I could not resist. Apparently, many people have seen the screening of David Guggenheim’s (An Inconvenient Truth) Waiting for Superman and many people did not like it.

I’ve read a number of critiques, mostly from educators. Diane Ravitch wrote about why Michele Rhee (featured in the film as a hero for education reform) and the Washington D.C. mayor that appointed her, lost. As in, they were not re-elected. Professor Aaron Pallas meticulously discusses his view that Waiting for Superman is not a film but a clever piece of propaganda. You might think Pallas was screaming conspiracy. On the contrary, he was quite level headed in his criticism.

The best piece thus far came from the Huffington Post. USF Education professor Rick Ayers blasted Waiting for Superman. His post is an excellent almost bullet point critique of Superman’s main points. The film vilifies teachers and teachers unions. It simplifies a very complicated problem and supposes that all the country needs is charter schools and merit pay of teachers based solely on standardized tests.

Here goes a nice nugget from Ayers’ post:

The poster advertising the film shows a nightmarish battlefield in stark grey, then a little white girl sitting at a desk is dropped in the midst of it. The text: “The fate of our country won’t be decided on a battlefield. It will be determined in a classroom.” This is a common theme of the so-called reformers: we are at war with India and China and we have to out-math them and crush them so that we can remain rich and they can stay in the sweatshops. But really, who declared this war? When did I as a teacher sign up as an officer in this war? And when did that 4th grade girl become a soldier in it? I have nothing against the Chinese, the Indians, or anyone else in the world — I wish them well. Instead of this Global Social Darwinist fantasy, perhaps we should be helping kids imagine a world of global cooperation, sustainable economies, and equity.

The purpose of documentary film is to provide a well rounded view of a clear subject. The filmmaker is suppose to present this information and allow the audience to form their own opinion. The biggest issue with the film so far is that it doesn’t provide a counter narrative. At no point does the film address the extremely loud opposition most of which are teachers, students, parents and professors of education. That doesn’t sound right to me.

I encourage you to become well versed on what some people are considering to be the beginning of a corporate ran school system. Check out a counter narrative here. A group of folks are making their own film – The Inconvenient Truth of Waiting for Superman.

  1. what are you trying to prove? That teachers are trying to have their students strive in subjects that are aplicable to real life job feilds, and strive to beat their competion? whats wrong with that?

    • Justin, some educators (Alfie Kohn comes to mind) would say that the purpose of education is not to provide future employees for [insert company name here] or to compete w/ other countries. Now, having said that, we certainly cannot deny the importance providing people w/ skills they can later use to support themselves and/or their family.

      I’m not trying to prove anything in this post. Like I said, there are important counter opinions from teachers, students, parents and professors of education about this film. I’m trying to expose people to those counter opinions. A documentary film, at its best, is suppose to provide the viewer with enough information – pro & con – to make their own opinion. Waiting for Superman doesn’t do that. I understand that it is a difficult topic to discuss because the movie, though flawed, is really good.

      Unfortunately, Superman isn’t a Saturday night movie special. It isn’t an action flick or a romantic comedy. It’s a movie about real life, real people and a topic that can and will change this country forever! There are monumental decisions that we need to make. We need the right amount of information to make the best decisions possible. The critics say that Superman doesn’t provide enough information.

      The US needs education reform. That is w/out question. What is being debated is how we reform education. Waiting for Superman has a clear position. I encourage you to read what other people are saying. The efforts to reform education is something that, I believe, should happen delicately. You don’t fix a car engine by hitting it really hard.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Having taught Vocational and Academic courses, both are essential. The specific vocation is narrowed down after the broader academic BASIS is covered. This basis is needed for a flexible and well-educated workforce, capable of creative and innovative thinking and being informed citizens.
      Non-formal education, through experience is also very important, even if formally educated.
      If we skip the basic academics, we aren’t likely to beat the competition.

  2. Have you seen the documentary, College, Inc. ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: