Students Caught in the School Squeeze
Waiting for Superman opening in NY and LA last night – I was the NY premiere (the 5th time I've seen it). It's an AMAZING movie – please see it and tell all of your friends to see it as well. It got a great review in the NY Times:
"Waiting for 'Superman' " is filled with disturbing statistics. In Illinois, where one in 57 doctors loses his medical license and one in 97 lawyers loses his law license, only one in 2,500 teachers loses his credentials, because of union rules. The film briefly visits a "rubber room" in New York City where idle teachers accused of misconduct wait months and sometimes years for hearings while drawing full salaries at an annual cost of $65 million.
The resistance to change is personified by Randi Weingarten, the fiery and articulate former head of the United Federation of Teachers, who now runs the American Federation of Teachers. Ms. Weingarten, who is somewhat demonized by the film, is the first to admit that public education is in crisis, but she represents thousands of teachers who depend on tenure.
Caught in the squeeze are students. The film's most emotional moments revolve around five children whose futures depend on winning a lottery to a charter school. Anthony, a Washington fifth grader raised by his grandmother in a bad neighborhood, is among 64 applicants for 24 spots at the Seed School, a public charter school from which 9 out of 10 students go on to college. Francisco, a Bronx first grader, is among 792 applicants for 40 spots at the Harlem Success Academy. Applying to the same school, Bianca, a kindergartner, is one of 767 children competing for 35 spots. Daisy, a fifth grader in East Los Angeles who dreams of being doctor, is among 135 applicants for 10 spots at Kipp LA Prep.
…By showing how fiercely dedicated idealists are making a difference, it is a call to arms.
The movie's happy-sad ending observes the moment of decision as the five children wait to learn if they have won the lotteries. It is sad that the direction of a young life depends on the dropping of a numbered ball from plexiglass box.
The union organized protests at last night debut on the upper west side of NY. They had on superman-like capes with RR, which stood for "real reformers" (HA!) and were doing a totally goofy song and dance. The media (and the theatergoers) ignored them.
September 23, 2010
Movie Review | 'Waiting for Superman'