A few weeks ago, I attended a screening of the new documentary, "Waiting for Superman." I went less for the topic of education reform than to analyze and learn from a well-received documentary film. I had my professional hat on, primarily because this was a film from Participant Media -- a company that does very well with activist films. Though I may not always fully agree with the perspective of their films, I am fascinated by their company structure and have much to learn from them. Plus, I know one of the cinematographers (Erich Roland) and I was eager to see his work.
"Waiting for Superman" is a well-crafted argument for change. It is both an essay film -- the "big idea" film -- and a character-driven story. While it examines the structural problems that have created "dropout factories" among a wide variety of school systems, it also offers some success stories. But what got me was the hunger of the kids to escape the futures that seem to be pre-determined for them. I didn't expect to cry at the conclusion. But I did. Yes, I will admit it. Watching the children work so hard to overcome the roadblocks created by the adults touched me.
I recommend watching this film in order to have a broader knowledge of the problems that plague many schools ... and ultimately our culture and economy. I have to give props to the director, Davis Guggenheim, for being willing to call out adults who have created structures that benefit them to the harm of the students they are charged with educating. We all have a vested interest in changing an educational system that offers protections to inept teachers -- job protections that workers in other industries don't enjoy, either. It's not good market practice and it certainly doesn't equip the next generation.