Reforming education; the movie ‘Waiting for Superman’

Posted 11/25/10

Rep. Mike Coffman The film “Waiting for Superman,” directed by Davis Guggenheim and produced by Lesley Chilcott, is a documentary that analyzes …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?

Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.


Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.

Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

Reforming education; the movie ‘Waiting for Superman’


Rep. Mike Coffman

The film “Waiting for Superman,” directed by Davis Guggenheim and produced by Lesley Chilcott, is a documentary that analyzes the failures of American public education by following several students through the system. The documentary is a clear indictment of many of our nation’s urban public schools which are labeled in the film as “drop out factories” because, on average, 40 percent of their students fail to graduate.

It would be hard to label Davis Guggenheim as a right-wing conservative since he previously directed another documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” that championed former Vice President Al Gore’s thesis about the impending perils of global warming.

The documentary sheds a harsh light on these mostly urban schools and examines the myth that poor children are the problem and not these union-dominated bureaucratic school districts.

The film also debunks the myth that the amount of funding for public education is directly proportional to student achievement since the District of Columbia and New Jersey respectively have the two highest per pupil funding levels nationally while they also share in the distinction of having the lowest achievement scores on standardized tests.

The movie places most of the blame at the feet of powerful teachers’ unions who have a choke hold on the political process and leverage their power to stifle innovation and reward poorly performing teachers with everlasting job security.

One part of the documentary describes a ritual in these underperforming schools called the “dance of the lemons.” It begins at the end of every school year with the transfer of poorly performing teachers from one school to another. Each principal prays the teachers received are not as bad as the ones transferred. This dance of the lemons is done in lieu of firing bad teachers because their union contracts protect them, irrespective of how bad they’re in the classroom, by making the disciplinary processes mind numbingly difficult to administer and as legally cumbersome as is humanly possible.

The documentary closes with a focus on charter schools, public schools that have been released from the stifling bondage of union contracts, as the solution. It gives real life examples of how charter schools can free up the creative energies necessary to educate all children.

The last scenes of the documentary dramatized the emotional desperation of parents and their children anxiously waiting for their number to be called at lotteries designed to ration the limited number of openings at these sought after schools. These families are forced to play in a game of chance and bet whether their children will have a future or be forced to return to the same broken schools that will condemn yet another generation to a culture of poverty where there is no hope for them.

I cheered for the lucky winners and felt terrible for those who lost.

Early last year in Congress, a little known legislative provision was buried inside of a much larger bill passed at the request of the nation’s largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association. The purpose of the amendment was to put a stop to a program that allowed poor children to escape the gang infested schools of inner city Washington, D.C. for private schools where they could receive an education at a fraction of the cost to the taxpayers.

The politically powerful union won, the legislation passed, but the debate over school choice in public education is just beginning and I predict it will be the leading civil rights struggle of this decade and that at the end, freedom will prevail.


Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.