Well I totally messed up. Yesterday was Friday the Thirteenth and if I had watched a film yesterday I would have done my 13th review on Friday 13th. Missed a trick there. That was likely due to poor planning and a lack of skill with numbers, which brings me to tonight’s review, Waiting For “Superman”. First documentary I’ve reviewed so this is gonna be a learning experience for me which is quite apt. So… let the lesson begin.
Waiting For “Superman” is a documentary which follows the educational lives of 5 US school children who are from either impoverished homes or at schools which under perform. Anthony (Awesome name BTW), Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily are all bright kids that not only want to learn but have goals for their future and understand what an education will mean for their lives. You see from them that they want to improve and they haven’t been dragged down by the pitfalls of the feeling that you cannot escape your circumstance, but the cracks are showing. These 5 children are all awaiting the chance to have a better education through being placed in literal lottery draws for their education.
As a Brit this system does seem pretty insane but in an over crowded country like the US it is really the only fair way to spread out school placements without offering favoritism to certain students. And just like most areas of American life the ones with money can just buy their education privately while those without money have no support. These children are clearly very bright and haven’t reached the point where they have been let down enough by bad teachers that they’ve stopped caring. You’d think there would be help for them to get a better education without the need for a lottery but it just isn’t there.
Americas schools are some of the worst in the world right now. And as their children fail to receive the education they need the jobs that require educated adults are going to people from overseas for the simple reason that there just aren’t enough educated Americans to fill these job positions. It seems to be a trend in a lot of the Western world these days that education is allowed to lapse. It’s a baffling situation really because the more educated a person is the less likely to commit crime they are, the less likely to to lag behind others intellectually they are, the more likely to improve their station they are and the more likely to do good things for their community or even the world they are. Basically if you have a country of well educated people your country will do wondrous things. Just look at the Japanese, high up there in education tables and they have Gundams and Akiras… They do right? Well i suppose they have all that rich art and culture and the leading people in science and computing too but whatever. Gumndam is where it’s at.
One stat that really makes me wonder about the logic of the US government, and to be fair most worldwide governments, is that it’s cheaper to send someone to private school from their first day through to the end of college than it is to keep someone in prison for 3 years. Yet over 60% of US prisoners are High School dropouts. Surely if that 60% of children had paid for educations that they didn’t feel the need to drop out of due to a feeling that they’re doomed anyway the nation would save a lot of money in the long run and would be better off overall because of it. Another scary stat for US citizens is that, by 2020, 150million plus jobs requiring high levels of will be filled by only 40million US citizens. I say it’s a scary stat cos, you know, xenophobes… I’m kidding!
What this film successfully does is put faces to these high school drop out stats and show just how the system is failing them. There seems to be one major issue with the system which is baffling to me. Teachers in the US are granted tenure after a short amount of time spent teaching. That means that once they have tenure they pretty much cannot be fired for any reason without going through a near year long process of evaluations and paper work. At one point we see a video a student filmed of his teachers not doing their jobs, letting the students do whatever they wanted and over reprehensible acts of negligence and abuse, including sticking one child’s head down a toilet, The schools principal was shown the video, was outraged and fired all the staff involved but then a few weeks later he had no choice but to rehire them.
One person trying to make a difference is the Chancellor of the District Of Columbia’s Public Schools. She manages to make a few improvements in her time in office but manages to make enemies of parents and teacher due to her actions. Actions that appear to work. The most astounding moment is when you see that she has a plan to keep tenure but give higher pay to teachers that perform better whilst giving up that tenure and this potentially system changing law is blocked from even going to vote by the teachers unions purely so they can continue to not make any effort to educate children. You’ve gotta be pretty lacking as a teacher if you think you can’t do you job well enough to earn a better wage. If you’re a US teacher reading this and you opposed that plan you’re a major part of the problem and, in my opinion, should be pretty damn ashamed of yourself. You could have been earning triple digit figures by working hard and making the countries future a better place to be in but instead you took the easy way out so you could continue to under perform knowing you can’t be fired. Another stat shows how in the state of Illinois 1 in 57 Doctors get struck off a year for negligence and malpractice while only 1 in 2500 teachers get the same fate. How can something as important as education be so under-scrutinised by their governing bodies is beyond me.
So, Waiting For “Superman” is a documentary that is worth seeing if only to remind people just how important education is and how a corrupt system can damage an entire nations future. The film may not do much to present a different side to the argument but I honestly can’t imagine there being one that doesn’t come across as selfish or plain arse backwards. The USA needs to stop being so introverted in it’s methods and start o look at just why over countries can flourish ahead of theirs before they lose their grip as a power nation. Tenure needs to be scrapped, Schools need more money and children need to be given the chance to earn a better education. I’m not saying UK educations amazing, it’s really not, but it’s in no way this broken. The final minutes of the film follow the 5 children as they wait for their lottery draws to decide their future. It’s a gripping moment and genuinely emotional as you can see their hopes and dreams either being realised or destroyed right there. It is key to this films message that we can’t allow the future of someones life to be decided by drawing a name out of a hat.