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October 01, 2010

Waiting for Superman

Waiting-for-Superman Documentarian Davis Guggenheim petitions the same level of cultural awareness about American education myths as his film "An Inconvenient Truth" delivered regarding Global Warming. The filmmakers methodically introduce America's systemic public education crisis with data and graphs that show how the majority of U.S. high schools have become "Drop-Out Factories." With U.S. students coming in last in math scores behind 30 other countries, you know we're in trouble. A significant crux of the problem comes from a teacher's union contract---with the American Federation of Teachers--that tenures teachers after just two-years, upon which time it becomes impossible to fire them regardless of their success rate with students.

Harlem charter school founder Geoffrey Canada (Harlem Children's Zone) discusses his effective approach to teaching children. Geoffrey Canada has enjoyed tremendous success with sending his program's students on to college. Canada's passion and commitment to educating young people carries a refreshing ring of clarity. We also follow newly-minted Washington, D.C. public-school system chancellor Michelle Rhee as she attempts to clean up the nations lowest performing school district.

The subject switches to the nation's best charter schools as the primary option over an abysmal public school system 50-years out of date. The problem is that charter schools only have a limited number of student spots to fill. As such, lotteries are held to randomly choose the lucky students who will attend. Utilizing five class-assorted case studies of children whose parents have entered their child in charter school lotteries, Guggenheim arrives at the harsh reality under our current system where many children will be blocked from a significant opportunity of living a financially successful existence.

"Waiting for Superman" opens alongside "Freakonomics," which supports this film's emphasis on how America's drop-outs today will be the ones ruining or running the country 20-years down the road. It also comes out at the same time as Charles Ferguson's important documentary "Inside Job," about Wall Street's heist of our economy. All three films are mandatory viewing for anyone who cares about saving our country.

Rated PG. 102 mins. (A-) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)


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