waiting for superman
“Even if you don’t have kids, you should care about public education,” says Lesley Chilcott, producer of Waiting for “Superman.” “If we want to solve global warming, poverty, health care and the economy, we need to have an educated society. Education is ground zero for tackling all these issues.”
Without getting into a political debate, which is not the point I’m trying to make here, I’d like to share five points that shocked me while watching this movie. You may already be aware of all of this, but I wasn’t.
- U.S. students ranked approximately 24th out of 29th in math and science in the developed world.
- There have been no improvements in raising overall standards in reading and math over the last ten years. Almost every state is failing to reach minimum standards.
- Children are placed on a “track system,” the lower track or the upper track, and generally this will follow the student throughout their schooling, from Kindergarten until 12th grade. Lower track kids don’t get the best teachers. Who decides on the track? Well that is left up to the viewer to determine.
- Apparently teachers were offered an alternative: get paid up to $122,000/year and give up the “tenure” system, whereby teachers who are lazy, not teaching properly, or are simply not getting the job done, can be laid off. They refused to vote. (This is in the movie, not something I read or heard.)
- A student had a hidden camera in his back-pack to film a “lazy” teacher on the tenure system, who read the newspaper and didn’t teach, and the high school kids were playing games and doing whatever they wanted. (I remember one of my sons telling me that his 10th grade teacher was showing videos and making them color in maps, almost every day, instead of teaching. She was getting ready to retire and was so fed up with her job, she didn’t care.)
There are so many points covered other than what I brought up, as we follow the lives of inner city kids around the U.S. and how many can only attend their “failing” inner city schools.
Those who struggle to get into the “better” schools try the lottery system. One little Hispanic girl, Daisy, wanted to become a vet. She worked so hard every day and unfortunately, her name was not called out during the lottery, so she had to stay in her “failing” school.
I’d like to say a BIG THANK YOU to all the GREAT teachers.
Message from Davis Guggenheim, Director of Waiting for Superman: “We are never going to have great schools without great teachers.
Trish @ A dream house for Trish says
Hopefully the teachers will feel some sort of shame & perhaps a sense of responsibility after seeing this & pick there act up…we have some similiar issues here in Australia. The schools here are zoned so you go to the public school in your area & let me say some of them leave alot to be desired. I am now on a waiting list for a place in the catholic school system which has high fees but better teachers due to my level of unhappiness with the public system!!
I was wondering what this movie was about. Thanks for the review, I'll be sure to watch it.
Robert the Skeptic says
I wish I could keep up with all the documentaries coming out. My Netflix queue gets longer and longer, but the time I have to devote to taking in the content is is limited.
I cannot comment on the film as I have not seen it. My experience with teachers, though, is they are a "political football"; everyone has an idea of how teachers can teach better: pay them less, pay them more, test them, motivate them, support them. But the reality is that each day they have to struggle to make it through the day. I honestly don't know how they do it. *smiles* Perhaps I should watch the film and find out?!
It's unbelievable that in this day and age education isn't the first priority. It's no wonder, perhaps, that bullying thrives in schools when teachers don't make an effort.
Great post – but one that makes me very sad for the students in the US. Especially those who are poor.
I couldn't catch the bit of video you posted; I think blogger may be down, or something.
One of the ironies I observe is that American politicians often talk like they've got no educashun. What kind of message does that send to kinds in school, or their parents?
Have not seen the film.
But isn't a school like a company – if it's badly managed results are not good.
Headmasters, teachers are adults and they are responsible what happens in their schools. If adults are not good examples how can we expect children to trust them that education is important, reading and math are important what ever your job is going to be etc.
Adults are responsible how a society is run, not kids.
You're right. The movie did try to point out that the adults were the ones to blame and that we should be thinking of the children first. I didn't realize that you had a similar situation in Australia. Hope you get a space in the Catholic school.
I would like to hear what you think after you see it.
@Robert the Skeptic
I know what you mean, however, there is so much money wasted with bureaucracy and since most teachers complain that they are not well paid, I am surprised to hear that they were not motivated by $122,000/year, with all the vacation and benefits they receive. That should make any person want to give 100% to the kids. I know it's about the Unions etc.
Yes, we do have such a problem here, and the gap seems to be enlarging between the well educated and the drop-outs.
I checked the link. It seems to be working. If not you can Google waiting for Superman and see it.
As far as the politicians, that's another story.
That's the problem. The schools are not run like businesses. You cannot fire the "bad" teachers, unless there is some sexual abuse or something like that. The movie shows that the problem is with the adults. There is such a waste of money.
I haven't seen the movie either but my sister is a teacher in America and from her stories parents matter a lot too. Some want their kids stupid by banning books etc others just don't care.
Tenure is a stupid system anywhere. I don't get it.
Madame DeFarge says
I tend to agree with Robert. Teachers are meant to pick up what parents can't be bothered to deal with. If more parents dealt with their children and didn't regard teachers as babysitters, things might get better.
I haven't seen the movie, but I have heard a lot about it. It is sad that in this country we talk and talk about improving public education, but nothing seems to get done.
I am with you on saying thank you to the good teachers….there are many of them and that is level at which differences are made in children's lives.
I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. I've said for years and years that tenure is what is holding our kids back.
My son had a teacher in 5th grade that had a file of complaints against him and his 'methods' that would choke a horse. Didn't matter. He was tenured and you couldn't blast him out. That is just WRONG!
When I try to talk to some of my friends who are excellent teacher's about this they do not want to hear it. The union has them so brainwashed that they can't believe you can keep your job without tenure. It's a crying shame!
Another thought provoking post! Thanks… I think.
Angela Ackerman says
Wow, this is a huge eye opener. I'm up here in Canada, but I'm sure the stats probably still apply. It makes me sad that the education sector is so poorly supported by the goverments when it's THE MOST IMPORTANT factor in all of our futures.
The world is in bad shape, and it is through education and fresh thinking that solutions will be found. I don't know why it isn't more of a priority. Hopefully things like this movie help bring about change.
Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
I haven't seen the movie, but can tell you that the state of the educational system is why I am homeschooling. My daughter's needs, as a gifted student would not be met.
@kslchicago. Gutsy Writer, Guggenheim did an outstanding documentary in 2001 called "The First Year" which focused on the first 180 days of teachers. It showed some really outstanding teachers also deal with the frustrations of the system and is moving as well. I loved Waiting for Superman it gave me further inspiration after quitting to launch an education company, Kids Science Labs in Chicagoland area. Schools are failing our kids in so many ways, but especially in science, and I am going to do something about it! @kslchicago