Education Documentary: Waiting for Superman

August 26, 2010 at 2:01 pm 14 comments

I’m on the email list for the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute and just got an invite to a preview of a new movie about urban education in the U.S.  It’s from the director of An Inconvenient Truth.

Man, I swear, the trailer alone is an emotional roller coaster ride.  It’s like everything we discuss on here, all rolled into a well-executed, vivid, emotional clip.  It looks like DC and NYC are featured, where the stakes are higher and there are kids who really stand to lose a lot (much like Chicago.)  In one scene, they are actually performing the school lotteries in front of a live audience with actual bingo-type balls!  Talk about full disclosure (and drama.)

http://www.waitingforsuperman.com/

UPDATE: here’s a link to a good clip of an interview with the director.  I alternate between thinking he’s sane and thinking he’s just trying to go for a dramatic story.

http://news.yahoo.com/video/us-15749625/22056996#video=22056996

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14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. LR  |  August 26, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Watched the preview – looks intriguing. Movie is named after the Flaming Lips song, I presume.

  • 2. Christine  |  August 27, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I can’t wait to see it. A friend of mine’s daughter and her mom are in it. Navigating the system in Chicago is just as difficult as it is in NYC. I can remember doing all this research when I lived in Manhattan then deciding to move to Chicago then going through all the research for CPS before making a final decision where in Chicago to live and my son is only in PreK.

  • 3. Christine  |  August 27, 2010 at 10:48 am

    when you see it, my friends are the Hill Family.

  • 4. Terri Versace  |  August 30, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Where is it showing in Chicago on the 24th?

  • 5. smp  |  August 30, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    another one that looks interesting that I have wanted to see:

    http://thelotteryfilm.com/

  • 6. cpsobsessed  |  August 31, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Wow, that’s interesting that there’s 2 of these movies coming out at the same time.
    I feeling a bit of a “disconnect” about how the movies portray so many parents (lower income) as doing everything in their power to get their kids into a better school via lotteries, but then why can they not group together and do something about their local schools? (This is a rhetorical question, I know easier said than done.) As we’ve discussed repeatedly, it’s not just the school system to blame for short-changing lower income parents. It’s the parents themselves who perpetuate part of the problem by being unwilling or unable to help their kids. I just feel that there’s something misleading about these trailers that I can’t quite put my finger on. I guess it’s the assumption/implicaton that a school alone can totally give a child a chance to succeed. That if they miss the lottery, they’re screwed and if they get in they’re golden. That’s not reality. But it’s obviously good drama.

  • 7. cpsobsessed  |  August 31, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Adding to my own comment, I guess if it takes drama to get people in the US riled up about where education in this country is headed, I’ll go along with it….

  • 8. cps mom  |  September 1, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I think it’s because the “bad” element at these failing schools is so bad it’s overpowering. The question does become how do you get it out of the schools without violating human rights.

  • 9. in utero mom  |  September 7, 2010 at 10:30 am

    @cps obsessed
    I can understand your statement, but I do believe you are over simplifying the situations of a diverse group of people. While some parents are uninterested in educating their children, many parents are faced with (a) a lack of time due to work obligations, (b) single-parenthood which further stretches your time commitment, and most importantly (c) a lack of education themselves. As the product of a low income single-parent home and CPS, I can attest to these challenges. Many of Chicago’s residents are aware that a CPS student has only a 6% chance of graduating from a 4-year college by the age of 25. I was lucky, as my mother was relatively proactive, but I can not fault her for her ignorance of some aspects of the CPS system and the American college system. I was lucky (and hard working) enough to obtain a scientific Ph.D. from the Univ. of Chicago, but I essentially had to navigate my way through college and graduate school without parental input. I am now 31 years old and currently 7 months pregnant with my first child. It seems strange to many people, but I am using my time off to understand the current CPS system (it’s changed a lot since I graduated!). As an educated parent (and one with time), I am more able to conduct research to find an excellent primary and secondary situation for my child. I believe we are all somewhat responsible for the education of American children. I know America is an “individualistic” country, but our economic and social future is dependent upon the success of all of our citizens. I know CPS is competitive, but we should all be willing to share our knowledge of the system with others, especially low income parents.

    I also want to point out that I’ve noticed that many readers of this blog are northsiders. I am unsure whether this is circumstantial or because the CPS game is more competitive up there. I do want to point out that many southsiders (like myself, I’m from Kenwood) understand the importance of education, especially within the framework of CPS. After all, both the 2nd and 3rd best elementary schools in Illinois are on the southside. I hope to direct other ss’ers to your website in the future.

    Gerri

  • 10. cps mom  |  September 7, 2010 at 11:11 am

    #9 – I’m older than you, having an uneducated immagrant mother and the traditional working father that did not participate in the process. I also have an advanced degree. Back then, parents didn’t need to get involved, but they did understand the importance of education. Things are different now. Children who do not have the support at home do fall behind (lower, middle or upper class). There seems to be many more programs and support available to help those that don’t get it at home. My son brings home fliers all the time from school about free tutoring, homework help, church groups and boys and girls clubs. It’s also posted at the school. Problems – some parents don’t put forth the minimum effort of looking in the backpack (if it makes it home), don’t go to the school open house, can’t get their child to the program etc. There is help for those who make some kind of effort. I am guessing that either you or your mother made sure the things that needed to happen for your success did.

    I’ve read in other posts that parents don’t feel they should be doing the work for the child – it’s up to them. I pretty much disagree with that. My son required a lot of handholding just because of the way he is. I do work full time and am the sole caregiver. The program at a good CPS school is aggressive and there are not enough hours in the day to get all the needed work done. A child will learn a lot more from a family project working together as opposed to struggling on their own. There are many times that I had to sit and review work and even re-learn myself. You are right about one thing – I don’t know how uneducated parents can possibly deal with some of this.

  • 11. Hawthorne mom  |  September 10, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    There is an article in Time magazine this week on this film.

    I feel strongly that there are soooo many parents out there who are not taking advantage of programs and help out there. When I taught kindergarten, my grade level team and I offered 3 evening workshops for free (and we were not paid by the school either)throughout the year for parents. We taught them about how to help their kids at home with phonics and provided them with CD’s and or cassette tapes with the sounds in English. We taught them about sight words, did make and take projects to create games to reinforce sight words at home. We taught them about ways to help their child in reading comprehension.

    Out of my 31 students, I had between 5-8 parents attend one of the 3 workshops. All of those parents were the higher performing students to begin with. I called each parent at home practically begging them to come and attend. We offered to arrange for childcare. We gave a free gift to parents who attended (a book for their kid). And only a small fraction attended!!

    It is frustrating to hear so many excuses being made for bad parenting.

  • 12. cpsobsessed  |  September 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Wow, that is reallly depressing about the lack of parents who will get invovled, even with all those incentives. I mean at some point, what else can you do? I’d like to see a documentary about that, you know? (Not like it’s going to help anything…) I know the US education system is in bad shape, but they can’t take 100% of the blame.

  • 13. cpsobsessed  |  September 10, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Of course I can’t go to the movie premiere now… school open house that night.

  • 14. Grace  |  September 15, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Hi everyone, I wanted to share something with you. I often read the PURE blog — Parents United to Reform Education — and I just saw this. It’s an important piece of the puzzle, for those of us who are wondering where the money is going and why the neighborhood schools are in the state they are in.

    So I’ve copied a recent posting about the Washington, D.C. mayoral race. It was, like Chicago’s race will be, about the sorry state of public schools and the tough anti-union, pro-charter and vouchers- approach that D.C.’s school chief Michelle Rhee has used. She’s likely to be fired, too.

    The same fate may soon await Ron Huberman. Here’s the PURE story …

    “Duncan reforms lose big in DC

    Thumbs downFed Ed Head Arne Duncan campaigned hard for incumbent Washington DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, based on Fenty’s support of teacher-bashing, high-stakes testing, principal-firing DC schools superintendent Michelle Rhee, a Fenty appointee.

    Fenty lost big.

    Here’s how Mike Klonsky described it this morning:

    “D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty took a pounding from voters in yesterday’s primary election, losing to Vincent Gray who received 53% of the vote to Fenty’s 46%.

    “The vote was as much a rejection of Michelle Rhee’s top-down, divisive, anti-teacher school-reform as it was of Fenty himself. It came despite frantic, last-minute campaigning from none other than the Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan who has spent an inordinate amount of time recently, visiting schools with Rhee and Fenty, handing out obviously politically-motivated awards and grants, looking for photo ops and badly overstating the results of the Rhee reforms….

    “Rhee’s reform was also propped up with millions of dollars from power philanthropists like Walton and Broad who threatened to pull $75 million in foundation funding should Fenty lose the election. Pro-charter, pro-voucher, and anti-union groups like Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) also rallied behind Fenty and an anti-union film bashing the teacher unions and touting Rhee, Waiting for Superman, was released just before the election.”

    “Reformers” like Minnesota governor and GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty are blaming the teachers’ union for the defeat, saying this proves that teachers don’t care about children.

    Umm hmm. Sure, they’re just in it for the money, unlike Rhee-supporters Bill Gates and the Wal Mart family.

    pure | PURE Thoughts | 15 September, 2:17pm

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