Obligatory Waiting for Superman Post

Superman Puzzled

The University of Richmond and a few other community groups organized a free viewing of the movie and then hosted a “courageous community conversation” following the movie1 Since I was haranguing people in person last night, I figured the least I could do was extend my efforts to the Internet.

In case you haven’t seen it,Waiting for Superman is a long infomercial for charter schools. I would encourage watching it if-

  • you love when things are simplified and polarized for maximum controversy
  • you are looking for clips to use in your own charter school infomercial
  • you want some stats to throw around in conversations

The two options the movie gives are staying with union-based failing public schools or going to magical charter schools which guarantee success2. The fact that we have many “failure factories” in non-union states is ignored. There is no mention of any charter schools failing.

I went into this figuring that even if the movie sucked, it would at least get people talking about education. I was mistaken. This movie simply provides a scapegoat for people who want one and it does it in a way that makes this conversation even more emotional.

In the live conversation, I probably came across as angrier than I was. The fact that a woman felt compelled to hug the guy I responded to seems to indicate that. For the record, I was more frustrated than angry. Saying all this hippie “all children can learn” stuff doesn’t do anything. It’s in NCLB. It’s in every school mission statement I’ve ever seen. It’s not that I don’t believe this, but pretending it’s a revolutionary thought that will now change education is stupid.


1 In case you were in my group, I was the guy that people started moving away from once I denounced the “Every kid can learn” guy. I was not the guy quoting Gladwell.

2 Apparently, because they work so much harder and really believe every student can learn.

Comments on this post

  1. Mike Hasley said on October 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    One of the best things about reading this post, other than agreeing with you and thinking similarly to the 2MM sequel I got to watch with Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton, is the fact that I know you and can vividly imagine the conversation you were in after the movie. And the hippie hug. Too bad those folks won’t know to read this, or understand your dedication to kids. It’s also too bad that people (politicians) are buying this crap. I have no problem with charter schools per se. It’s not a political battle I care to fight. But what angers me is I never hear the pro-Charter people recognize the fact that they have a safety net that we don’t have… which is us. I’m pretty sure our schools would improve overnight if sending kids to a government run military school whether parents complain or not was our option. Since a Charter School can dump anyone who “cannot learn” back to us… they’ll always look better. I guess it’s the magicians code to not tell the secret….

  2. Tom said on October 29, 2010 at 10:26 am

    It was a travesty. I need to work on hiding my emotions.

    The other key to magic is misdirection. Look over here. Ignore the other hand. It seems corporations now have that down pat.

  3. Ben said on October 29, 2010 at 10:52 am

    You’re lucky you actually got to view it. It’s not coming out anywhere remotely close to anywhere I live, so I’ll have to suffer through comments, pillories, and exultations of it without having actually seen it.

    However, after my wife and I both having taught at charter schools, I can safely tell you that a lot of charter schools appear to be doing great because they have a “just good enough” mentality, that when compared to the failing public schools in their community, they do seem magical. However, when compared to successful public schools in neighboring communities, they seem just about as backward as the districts they’re trying to replace.

  4. Jim said on November 9, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Man, I really missed your blog, and this is a perfect example as to why. You sum up this film for me in just a few words: “a Charter School infomercial.” While I wouldn’t want to pay to see this film, I would pay to see you frothing at the mouth at other people, and also making total strangers come together—even hug one another—in fear of the Woodward. Damn, I wish i were there. IS there video?

    • Tom said on November 9, 2010 at 10:56 pm

      I missed my blog too. Now we’ll see about consistency.

      Yeah, I wouldn’t pay either. Despite what people say, I’m an optimist. I went figuring the conversation would end up ok. It didn’t.

      I told the guy I went with that I went to “win friends and influence people.” His response was that I should have stayed home.

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