PoliticalChic's Review of "Waiting for Superman"

Discussion in 'Education' started by PoliticalChic, Nov 1, 2010.

  1. PoliticalChic
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    PoliticalChic Diamond Member

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    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 children’s expensive private school. “I’m lucky – I have a choice,” Guggenheims says, but then asks a very important question: “What is our responsibility to other people’s 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 Rhee’s 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 Harlem’s Children’s 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 teacher’s 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 doesn’t 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 didn’t 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 I’ve 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 teacher’s 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.
     
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  2. random3434
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    random3434 Senior Member

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    Yep, they need to find a way to get rid of these teachers that just don't care, or are not effective at their job. There is a teacher in my building who has no business teaching, yet the 'hoops' they have to go through to get rid of her..........I weep for her students and the things they aren't learning,,,,but should be...........


    Did they mention that education is also too "Top Heavy" in the Admin. departments, and getting rid of some of that baggage could free up funds for the students.


    Thanks for your review PC, I enjoyed reading it!
     
  3. iamwhatiseem
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    iamwhatiseem Gold Member

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    Well...maybe we need to spend more money.
    Oops..wait..we did that...we better spend even more money...crap we did that too.
    It's almost like we need to hold teachers accountable like everyone else has to in the private sector...but that would be bad for unions.

    What can we do??
     
  4. Baruch Menachem
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    Baruch Menachem '

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    This is the real sources of the outsourcing problem. You can't find enough educated americans to fill the jobs.
     
  5. CrusaderFrank
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    CrusaderFrank Diamond Member

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    Thank you for that!
     
  6. Dr.Traveler
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    Dr.Traveler Mathematician

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    I'll rent it when it comes out.

    I know back in the late 90s when I was thinking about going into high school education I saw a lot of these same problems you're mentioning when I visited the Indianapolis area schools. I recall heading to one school where the teacher had clearly lost control of the room. He was dutifully teaching at the front, while the kids in back were playing cards. The truly sad thing is a student sitting right next to me was so desperate to learn he leaned over and asked me, the visitor, how to do the math involved. I taught him how, and I'm worried that was the last time he learned anything in that class.

    The visitiations also included interacting with the Teacher's union and the school board. Following that class, I made a decision not to teach at the high school level. The problems, even then, were just too big for me. I went on to get my Ph'D and now teach at the college level.

    There were success stories though. The charter schools I visited were outstanding, and some of the suburban schools were just amazing.
     
  7. Samson
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    Samson Póg Mo Thóin Supporting Member

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    Actually, I like teaching very much, and oddly, my favorite group is economically disadvantaged minorities aged 13-14. Why?

    First and foremost is that most have not been hardened against "the system" which they see as mostly adversarial at best. Yes, I know this isn't really true, but it is what they hear at home from parents and other family members. They can still be "turned" to believe they will succeed.

    Second is they want to have fun. I'm not sure why, but caucasians seem to have some huge burden of guilt about being either too poor or too rich to have fun. Their idea of fun is often making you, and others around them, miserable. If a teacher can tap into the desire to have something, their students can learn anything.

    Third is that the parents, while you don't see them much, will often be very supportive. In fact, I learned the hard way that you need to be very careful with them because they will often overreact to support the teacher; a virtually unheard of phenomena among caucasian parents.

    Forth: Administrators of schools with large minority populations don't really sweat the small stuff. They have very little time to administer rectal exams to teachers to ensure all the "i's" are dotted and "t's" are crossed.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010
  8. Dr.Traveler
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    Dr.Traveler Mathematician

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    I can see that. One of the schools I visited was a middle school. The school itself was obviously run down and underfunded, but the teachers were working magic with what they had. One of the teachers told our little group that middle school age kids are tough to teach due to the energy, but if you could point it in the right direction.... BOOM!

    The experience I shared was in a VERY large highschool on the South Side.
     
  9. Missourian
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    Why does it seem like it's the urban schools are failing while suburban and rural schools are succeeding?
     
  10. hedi01
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    hedi01 BANNED

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    How the animation process works, with plenty of footage from Disney classics to illustrate why they were the best and most inovative.
     

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