It’s getting down to the wire in the presidential election, meaning the facts are about to become so irrelevant it’s not even funny (that goes for both parties). No one is going to say they want to fire teachers. Everyone is going to say they love education and that fixing our schools is a priority for their term and for our future. But when all that empty campaign rhetoric goes away, what then is left?
That’s the focus of “Waiting for Superman,” Davis Guggenheim’s stirring documentary about the American education is failing its students and setting up the country much bigger issues down the road. It’s a fearless look at the issue not from a merely by-the-numbers, students as a statistics standpoint; it’s looking at education as a human calculation. Emphasis on the human. For that reason, it’s my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”
The gripping documentary takes a look into the policies that aren’t working and then finds some common sense solutions. Guggenheim provides far too many horrifying examples of dissatisfactory education, and I’ll leave the majority of them surprise you in the same way they shocked me. But I will share some of the struggles of Michelle Rhee, the controversial D.C. Superintendent.
I do share a rather personal connection to Rhee as one of my cousins taught in her district (and to brag on my incredible relative, was feted by Rhee for her exceptional work). She saw the biggest problem for these children was the district’s terrible teachers. But she had to deal with the teacher’s union, which would not budge on the current agreement that provided tenure to teachers who had taught for only a few years.
Her efforts were unpopular, aggressive, and bold – but she did what had to be done in order to get rid of the teachers who were falling asleep on the job. Thanks to people like Rhee, our school systems are making progress. How many of us can say we are doing the same – or even doing anything to help? As some would say, “if you aren’t a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.” The future of our nation depends on it.