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"Waiting for Superman"

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Davis Guggenheim, in the documentary ‘Waiting for Superman’, brings to light the corrupted and broken educational system of America. He says that the educational system is heading downhill, causing more harm than good, or suppressing growth, which it should enable anyway. In this documentary, he uses the Superman figure as the Superhero, or someone that should come along and save the educational system and the country at large from stunted growth and subsequent collapse.

‘Waiting for Superman’, released in 2010, is a documentary that sets out to unveil the causes of problems in the current educational system, and how it is producing children who are less educated. Moreover, it foresees an even worse scenario with the lapse of time if ‘superman’ does not save the occasion. Therefore, Guggenheim explains that some of the factors, that affect children’s education, range from broken homes, availability of good education, and jobless or single parents. To make it clear, he concentrates on five children and their desperate families, who experience these challenges first-hand. He brings you even closer to what they experience through personal interviews with the children and their families, and makes an evaluation of how these factors directly affect their educational performances. The children on the spotlight are Bianca, a child in kindergarten and the first grade student, Francisco, who have both applied to Harlem Success Academy. The other children on observation are fifth grade students Daisy and Anthony; and an eighth grade student, Emily, who is at Silicon Valley.

Anthony of Washington D.C does not live with his mother or father. Instead, his grandmother, Gloria, is the only guardian he knows. Ms. Gloria explains explicitly in the documentary “there was no choice” of a better school for her grandson. She loves him so much and she would do anything for him, even take him to the best school if she could. It is only unfortunate that there is no choice-option of a better school in the neighborhood. Bianca, on the other hand, has very big dreams. She wants to be a doctor, or a nurse. However, the challenge is that the parents are struggling so much financially “My dad is struggling because he doesn’t have a job, and my mom is also trying to get a job”. Essentially, this cuts off her parents’ ability to take her to a private school.

Firstly, after having a critical look at the theme of this documentary, it has become clear that the major issue, or the matter of concern, is the quality of education that the students get at school. Do the students get relevant knowledge that is necessary to develop skills for a good career? Guggenheim explains in the documentary that this is most unlikely because of overcrowding in public schools, which does not allow for a more interpersonal relationship between teachers and their students. Secondly, the system does facilitate teachers’ professional growth. On the contrary, it retains teachers who perform poorly. Consequently, these less performing teachers migrate from one school to another in a scene known as “Lemon Dance”.

From the documentary, a student asks their teacher, “are you just going to sit there or are you going to teach us?” This is just a snap shot of what the students go through, once the teachers are sure that they cannot lose their job under whatever circumstance. Therefore, whether they teach their students or not, it does not really matter. They will still receive payment, and cannot be fired, as the educational system dictates.

Moreover, in the 1990s charter schools emerged. In more often situations, these schools produce excellent results, and are the reasons why most people flock and apply for opportunities to have their children go to charter schools. The secret behind these schools’ excellent results is that they are run independently from other district schools, and not by the rules that govern other educational institutions. The teachers in these schools are more determined to give results, and spend extra time with their students as opposed to public schools.

The charter schools are very attractive to most parents who want their children to excel. However, in schools like KIPP schools, Harlem Success Academy, and The SEED School of Washington they cannot take too many students. The available slots are very few, and the applicants for them are very many. In that case, as is evident in the documentary, the schools have to run a public lottery for the available positions.

In conclusion, I certainly agree with Guggenheim’s idea that lack of development, or economic stagnation is not to blame entirely on the teachers, but on the education system and the curriculum. In the 1970s, the current education system gave great results. However, times have changed. Economic needs and other aspects of the global market, as technologies have changed and the educational syllabus has remained constant. It is, therefore, important for school program to be in synchrony with economic demands. Additionally, in my opinion, education should start right from home. Parents ought to push their children a little bit, especially when the children do not show much interest in education. For example, Francisco does not like to go to school. I think this is because he does not get mentorship about the importance of education from home.

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