Waiting for “Superman”: A must-watch documentary

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman” is a documentary that digs deeper to explore the statistics of the American education system. He follows five children and their parents journey to do everything in their power to get them a better education.

It was incredibly hard to watch these kids and their parents, each so committed to getting a better education, not able to get anywhere, simply because of where they’re living. A few of these kids’ stories really got to me, and here is one  that got to me the most:


Daisy lives in East Los Angeles and is in the 5th grade. She works hard and is determined to go to college. She already knows where she wants to go and has written to the college, asking that she be accepted. Her dream is to be a doctor, but Daisy is about to enter one of the worst performing schools in Los Angeles. In her neighborhood, 6 out of 10 students don’t graduate high school… Daisy’s parents do everything they can to support their daughter because they want her to defy the odds and graduate, but private school isn’t an option… but right down the street from their home is one of the best charter schools in Los Angeles: KIPP LA PREP… KIPP’s students rank among the best in Los Angeles and its demanding program will prepare Daisy for college in ways that her neighborhood public school cannot. But with 135 applicants for 10 spots, Daisy has a 14% chance of getting in. (excerpt from waitingforsuperman.com)

To get their children the best education they can, parents across the country are forced to go to these public-private schools where they can likely come out with the ability to go to college. The point they don’t really focus on here in the movie is the class sizes. It’s fairly obvious that kids from K-12 are going to succeed when there’s a class size of 10. Teachers can focus more on students and they can get that tailored learning experience; something not possible in the public system with ballooning class sizes.

One of the education reformers highlighted in the film was Michelle Rhee. She is the Chancellor for the D.C. school system, and has been since 2007. Her main goal has been to tear up the system, which was failing, by getting rid of the ineffective management at the top and funnel that money back to the schools. In the documentary it clearly shows she means business because she was facing many angry people who didn’t like the prospect of losing their jobs.

There is so much more I could go on about this movie, but I really feel it’s worth watching. It’ll stir all your emotions and put faces, young faces, to the education problem. I found the movie very engaging and got me wanting to learn more about Canada’s system and where it’s at. I give Waiting for “Superman” 5/5.

About Sean Bailey
Social media marketer who also happens to be a tech geek that's addicted to reading, movies, music, sports and coffee. Anything said on this blog is my opinion (obviously).

2 Responses to Waiting for “Superman”: A must-watch documentary

  1. Katherine says:

    This movie was awesome, but it simplified the problem far too much. What do they mean by “bad teacher”? I’m a good teacher, but in the worst neighborhood in Harlem with no means of discipline I’m sure I’d become a horrible teacher. In the movie, they have the “good teacher” standing in front of the class saying stuff and writing on the board (in the cartoon) and the bad teacher is sitting at his or her desk. A good teacher actually stands in front of the class giving direct instruction 25% of the time, and has the kids DOING stuff 75% of the time (learning to use an Excel spreadsheet, writing their own opinion text, peer editing, practising how to draw a face based on a lesson you taught them…).

    Canada’s system is not as bad as the US, but it is still a two-tier system (or maybe a three-tier). Kids in Canada are educated based on their parent’s income. For example, my French Immersion gifted kids have been placed in that class because their parents know how to advocate for them, meaning that they all know they must behave and produce to stay there. I then have regular French Immersion kids whose parents are well-off. These two classes are able to buy their kids books, work with their kids, and pay for the many field trips we go on. Then you have the regular kids, whose parents haven’t placed them in any program. They never go on trips and consistently score lower on every standardized test. There are also “fresh off the boat” ESL students. Their ESL teachers almost got cut last year by our trustees, as their parents don’t know enough English to complain and prevent this. I ended up writing a letter to trustees and attending a meeting about it along with other teachers, and we did actually save the program. So as you can see, Canada is short sighted enough to remove funding from the neediest (ESL students) and keep giving it to those who have it all (bus passes for all Gifties!).

    Other problems I have with this movie:
    – WHAT does “proficient in math” even mean??? Is your standardized test really measuring that? Who’s marking it? The reading tests probably totally out of context and makes kids read a poem or about a snake species they’ve never even seen…
    – The list of junk we’re supposed to teach kids is crap from ten million years ago. It doesn’t relate to their lives or to what’s needed in the workforce, so no wonder they’re not all doing very well.
    – It seems to imply that I should do EVERYTHING I possibly can to help EVERY kid. This isn’t Dangerous Minds or Freedom Writers. Sometimes, I have to go home and forget about the kids. Teachers are there to help, but there isn’t time to help everyone and sometimes I need to fail a kid or two who aren’t meeting expectations.

    Yep… other than that a great movie! I’ve definitely seen some teachers who need a good firing!

    • Sean Bailey says:

      Thanks for the comment Katherine!

      I agree with basically everything you said here. I think the movie needs to be simplified a) because we only have <2 hrs to get the message out; b) because he wants to raise the issue with the American public, so it needs to be done with something that will grab their attention.

      I also strongly agree with the fact that standardized testing is bull, because schools end up teaching kids simply to pass those tests, so they can get perks, etc.

      I should write more about teaching so I can get great comments like that 🙂

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