“Waiting for ‘Superman’” is one-sided, lazy
“Waiting for ‘Superman’” Pitchforks: 2.5 out of 5 Directed by Davis Guggenheim Rating: PG Opens: Oct. 8
If you disagree with the point of “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” you’re a heartless jerk.
At least, that’s the way the new documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) aims to make you feel.
Guggenheim’s “documentary,” about what a crapshoot the U.S. public school system currently is gives only one option when coming to a conclusion about its subject. Yes, it’s a fact that a large percentage of public high schools out there are labeled “dropout factories.” “Dropout factories” are defined by MSNBC as being “a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year.”
It’s no question that the education system in this country is flawed. What is questionable is how Guggenheim, who also narrates the film, presents those flaws and decides which ones to feature and omit.
It is sad that there are kids out there who don’t get a proper education, and if you’re a parent of one of those children, it’s an unfortunate reality. But, contradictory to what Guggenheim presents, being sad is not the only thing it is.
There are darling little graphs and quirky animations that portray damming statistics about schools, and they fit in with the rest of the cutesy film. They show big, gasp-inducing numbers taken from polls and data — because numbers never lie.
The film follows five young and extremely cute children, who are enrolled in poorly performing public schools, tagging along as they try to improve upon their dire education situation. This means, in Guggenheim’s point of view, winning a lottery to get into a charter school. Charter schools, state funded institutions that do not have to deal with teachers unions, are free to the public — if you can get in. They are legally mandated to have a lottery if there is a higher demand for seats than those provided.
Yes, the number of charter schools that don’t fail and get shut down obviously have a good idea going. But Guggenheim makes it seem as if the key factor to their success is that they don’t have to follows the rules of the evil teachers’ unions. The film portrays teachers’ unions as being evil because they give teachers tenure, making it almost impossible to fire them or offer any sort of pay incentive or performance evaluation.
He ignores the fact that pay incentive doesn’t always work. As the huge bailed-out insurance companies proved when they gave the leaders of their companies huge bonuses, large sums of money do not always make the most efficient worker. That would go against Guggenheim’s rhetoric, pulling the beard off Santa and ruining the magic for everyone.
The film disguises itself as a documentary, but at best it’s rhetorical propaganda. It relies too heavily on emotions and not enough on logic to make a legitimate, valid point. But hey, it’s entertaining, and isn’t that what a movie should be? Just don’t think about it. You probably went to a public school and aren’t capable of thought anyway.
Reach the reporter at pmelbour@asu