Movie Review: Waiting for "Superman"

Last weekend Kevin and I were enjoying an evening at home and decided to rent some On Demand movies. We first watched Unstoppable, the movie about the "runaway" train in PA (justa side note...my cousin, Sherrill, was in the movie as an extra. I didnt see her, though.), and the second was Waiting for "Superman." 

Neither of us had heard of it so we watched the preview and decided pretty quickly that we needed to rent it. I have to say, it was amazing.

If you are like me and have never heard of it, please check it out. It has to be one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. You can go to the movie website listed above but here is a pretty accurate description of the premise: "...a deeply personal exploration of the current state of public educaction in the U.S. and how it's affecting our children."

The film follows several families as they search for a better education for their children. I knew there was an education crisis in America, but, since I dont have children, havent really given it much thought. This film opened my eyes and let me tell you, the truth hits you like a ton of bricks, whether you have children or not. For most of the children in the film, their only shot at a better education is leaving the public schools they attend and head to charter/magnet schools or college prep academies.

The problem that arises is, because so many families want their children to transfer to these institutions, the admittance rate is extremely low. I think there were something like 730+ applicants wanting to get into the Harlem Success Academy but only 35 open spaces. The only fair way to decide who gets the spot? A lottery. Yep...a lottery. The names of applicants are put in a big hopper (or they are assigned a number and numbered balls are put into a bingo hopper) and pulled out at random. You can imagine the disappointment everyone but those extremely lucky 35 felt. It was heartbreaking.

The film also goes through public school statistics and the growing number of "drop out factories", which are public schools that simply push students through and dont give a lot of consideration to their education. One thing that really stood out to me was the fact that, in some parts of the country, kids are entering and moving through high school with only 7th grade understanding of Math and English. because the schools they attend are considered "drop out factories" their understanding/proficiency never imroves until, ultimately, they drop out.

I really don't want to go into a lot of detail about this movie--I highly recommend it and encourage you to rent it soon. (it's available on Red Box! C'mon.. it's $1. You WONT regret it.)

One thing I did take away from the movie was just how lucky I was to get the education I got growing up. Sure, not all my teachers were great, but the majority really cared about giving their students the best education possible whether they had tenure or not (another BIG issue in the film that simply amazed me). Kevin said that a lot of his teaches simply didnt care enough to teach and he was pretty much self taught and not prepared for college.

Definitely a movie to see--it will open your eyes to a problem that is not going away anytime soon!

Alison Roberts

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