I was four minutes late I hurriedly entered the dark, practically empty theater in a state of quiet joy of finally having arrived to watch this much talked-about, and long-awaited movie. After all being interested in ideas about education, how could I be au fait without having seen this documentary? In the opening scenes, the soothing voice of director, Davis Guggenheim lures us into this documentary. He talks while he drives past three crumbling public schools in Los Angeles on their way to his own childrens expensive private school. Im lucky I have a choice, Guggenheims says, but then asks a very important question: What is our responsibility to other peoples children? Thoughts of John Dos Passos crossed my mind while I watched Guggenheim weave a poignant story by telling of the lives of five families entrenched in the problematic public schools interspersed with footage of Michelle Rhees rise to stardom and subsequent fall, interviews with Randi Weingarten (president of AFT), and other leading figures in the field of public education, including Gregory Canada (president and CEO of the Harlems Childrens Zone), Dr. Howard Fuller (director of the Institute of the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University and former Milwaukee Schools superintendent), and even billionaire and philanthropist, Bill Gates who recently has taken an ardent interest in the plight of public education. Prominently noted is the dismal fact that U.S. students are number 25 and 21 in math and science, respectively among 30 developed nations but number one in self-esteem! And, as one would expect, the epidemic of ineffective, incompetent teachers and the strangle-hold the teachers union has on the public education process (i.e., inability to get rid of bad teachers, tenure) I had a sense of deep despair, in fact, hopelessness -- that children from lower-income families would be sentenced to failing schools and fall prey to the statistic that a child that doesnt finish high school will earn less and will be eight times more likely to go to prison. One of the most disturbing images shown was a video secretly taken by a high school student showing a teacher reading a newspaper with his feet up on his desk while students play craps in the back of the room. The principal later said that there was nothing he could do about this teacher who simply didnt care And while the images of the film suggest a lot of dead ends, a glimmer of hope peeks through with the success of many charter schools. The charter schools have put to rest the common meme, that the achievement gap between the rich and poor could never be bridged. The tools of the charter school success include: lengthening school days; school on Saturday; giving children and parents access to teachers (via phone contact, direct e-mails, and conferences.) The movie reaches a crescendo when each of the five mainly minority families are sitting in the auditorium of five different cities (Bronx, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Harlem, and Silicon Valley), nervously await the fate of their children. The parents faces are anxiety-ridden and the children mirror their parents moods. Fate may very well decide if their children will have a successful life or possibly a very different one. And because Ive gotten to know the children and the families, I was on the edge of my seat rooting that fate will smile upon them. Later when I went home, rethinking the movie, I did become a bit hopeful when I thought back to the time of where civil rights emerged as a movement. Blacks and whites together became tired and angry at being shackled by the chains of Jim Crow. Perhaps parents, educators, politicians, and interested citizens will realize that the teachers union while having made positive contributions, have now become too powerful a behemoth, benefiting the teachers and neglecting the interests of the children. Go take a friend and watch this movie even if you have no interest in education. It is eye-opening and riveting.