“Waiting for Superman” Movie Review

"Waiting for Superman" movie poster“Waiting for Superman” is a passionate documentary about five kids, from very different backgrounds, who are relying on a broken education system to kick their lives off on the right foot. While this is a film that dives into the world of our public schools, it really is centered around how it all plays into the lives of these children, so ultimately director Davis Guggenheim allows us to draw our own conclusions, but the writing is certainly on the wall. The system is broken, but it isn’t hopeless.

Why you’ll like this:
Expertly made documentary; very interesting view of the education system; the kid’s are amazing

There’s a lot of nooks and crannies this film shines a light on, many of which I was not previously familiar. I was very pleased though that this was not a partisan documentary effort, it felt natural to lay the blame at both parties, because everyone elected seems to promise that it’s time to fix our education system, and yet we remain stagnant. One of the bigger shocks to me was the notion that this isn’t necessarily a socio-economic problem either, in the public school system everyone seems to be about evenly affected.

My favorite section of film revolved around the Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada, who gives us the movie’s namesake. If nothing else can be said about this documentary, I think it’s well laid before our eyes that there’s a lot of very passionate people who have the desire to see the children of our country receive a great education, and Mr Canada is certainly a champion of this notion. He believes so thoroughly that kids anywhere in our country can learn and keep up no matter their background, that he decided to take on one of the hardest sections in our country, Harlem, and has been wildly successful proving that it isn’t about a child’s ability to learn, but rather the expectations we place on them.

I can only find one small nitpick of an issue in this excellent documentary, and it’s that I was hoping for a look into different styles of education. Not in terms of “let’s teach them songs to help with math”, but more of a dive into the very roots of our education style. I’ve always heard that our school system was born to teach us to be good factory workers, “do a task until the bell rings, then start a new task…”, and I was hoping to see or learn more about where our philosophic approach to education came from, and if there were other ways to teach rather than just relying on good ol’ Science, Math & English for a few hours every day.

Why you won’t like this:
You care neither for learning (ironic) or for documentaries period.

But again, the focus of this movie more than anything was about the kids, who are in the middle of a system so wrecked by teacher’s unions and bureaucratic nightmares that their biggest hope rests in winning the education lottery, where they’ll get to attend one of the coveted charter schools. There’s so much information here that alone warrants a viewing, but there’s tons of heart and hope, and it’s bound to stir up passion. I would beg anyone to watch “Waiting for Superman”, because a well-informed group of people will understand that it’s in our best interest to have an educated youth for a whole host of reasons, but why they aren’t getting the best education is something we all need to seek to understand, and this film is a great step in that direction.

4 out of 5 stars.

Director: Davis Guggenheim
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.