Many were surprised when the documentary Waiting for Superman wasn't nominated for an Academy Award earlier this year, despite its strong reviews and relatively successful box office run. Having finally watched the movie, I see why it was ignored; it's good, but not remarkable.
Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), Waiting for Superman dives into the controversial subject of education. The United States spends more per student than any other country in the world, and yet the country fails to rank among the top 20 in proficiency. Guggenheim seeks answers as to why this is, and also brings to life the stories of a few children who have fallen victim to - or about to - America's deficiencies.
Waiting for Superman raises plenty of good questions and brings to light the controversial practices put in place by the teachers' unions. As has been explained to death over the last year, teacher pay is rarely based on merit, and teachers are hard to fire. That just scratches the surface of the problems our educational system face.
I am not a big fan of unions. I'm definitely not a fan of unions that make it challenging to fire incompetent employees or refuse to accept pay-for-merit policies. Needless to say, I am not a fan of the teachers' unions, which I believe have completely lost sight of what really matters: the students.
Waiting for Superman presents the issues at hand in an easy to understand way, and for that alone the movie is worth seeing. Most people, especially those of us who have grown up in affluent neighborhoods, are ignorant of the many flaws in our education system. In that regard, Waiting for Superman is important.
Still, the documentary didn't blow me away. Maybe it's because I'm well versed on the issues, at least on a superficial level, but Waiting for Superman didn't tell me anything new. It's worth seeing, but among the year's best, it doesn't compare.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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