Think Of The Homeless

There are over 30 million Americans who live on the streets of our nation. Can you consider giving something to a shelter near you? Your fellow human beings need socks because they walk everywhere. Food and shelter are great too, if they will take them. So please give.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reviews by Hubie Goode: Waiting for Superman

Waiting for Superman

Featuring Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee, Daisy Esparza, Bianca Hill, Anthony Black and Bill Strickland.

Written by Davis Guggenheim and Billy Kimball.
Running time: 102 minutes.
Rated PG (for mild language and images of incidental smoking).

Rated: PG [See Full Rating]
Runtime: 1 hr. 42 min.
Genre: Documentary, Special Interest
Theatrical Release: Sep 24, 2010 Limited
Box Office: $0.6M

Starring: Bianca-, Anthony-, Daisy-, Emily-, Francisco-, David-, Mike-, Eric-, Geoffrey-, Michelle-, Bill-, Randi-
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Studio: Paramount Vantage

Waiting for Superman is a scathing indictment of our nation’s school system and the resulting crime of waste that is created for the lives of our nation’s students. Toward the end of the movie there is a segment that shows a handful of students who are submitted to a lottery. This lottery will randomly choose whether or not they will be allowed to enter into one of the charter schools that are overrun with applications from students who are hoping for a way to get a better education than those who attend regular public schools. Only a few make it. Many do not, and their futures are seemingly written in stone.

We are introduced throughout the movie to five of these student
s who will all end up in the “game of chance” that is called: their future education. They are up against a mighty big wall at 20 to 1 odds, and if they are not picked, they return to their neighborhood schools and the 50% drop out rate that is pervasive there. But, here’s the thing: kids who go to schools like Kipp L.A. Prep or even Harlem Success Academy, will go further in their education and find more personal life satisfaction than the well to do kids from rich neighborhoods who have well supplied high school campuses.

Davis Guggenhiem, producer of this documentary, is very straight forward about the imminent failure of the American education system, a problem that has been eroding around us since the early 70’s. There is no candy coating or PC language to deliver the message of what he has revealed here. As an example: one of his animated charts shows that American kids are LAST in the world in mathematics skills, but they believe they are first. Another legacy to existentialist equivocation that has been a cancer to our education system since the early part of the 1900’s. At the same time, Silicon valley jobs go unfilled and must be “in sourced” from other countries because there are just not enough American kids who can handle the technology when they graduate, or even, sometime afterward. As Bill Gates says in a cameo, 92 out of 100 jobs in the future of America will involve some type of high tech, yet only 7 out of 100 kids from American schools will be able to fill those jobs. That’s way too many kids trying to fill blue collar and service work in the work force, and with the high rate of unemployment today... what can we expect in the future?

The focus is on educator Geoffrey Canada, who opened a school in Harlem, in the worst part of it, and filled it with qualified, enthusiastic teachers. He gave those teachers better pay and had an emphasis on college prep
from day one for the students. Their success rate has proven phenomenal, and kids are lined up at the door to get in... as are their parents. No one here is concerned with tenure, the drag on the system that has created a circus of red tape and convolution that has as a result doomed our nations kids. Tenure makes it impossible to fire bad teachers, and the schools end up shuffling teachers around from school to school in hopes that one day things will be better. However, it is only a redundant exercise described by one school as the “lemon dance”. I get your lemons and you get mine, next year we do it all over again.

What we see here in the examples of charter schools that operate outside the system, is that quality education and motivation is possible for even the most disadvantaged students. The cost is also low, considering that most high school drop outs turn to crime for one reason or another. The cost of keeping a prisoner is about 33,000 dollars a year, and a student is about 3,500 dollars a year. Do the math as they both either sit around draining the economy for 12 years or else spending productive time in schoo
l. Money spent on prisoners is money that disappears down a black hole, and if we have a larger school failure rate than success rate, that black hole becomes ominous.

Those lotteries that randomly decide a child’s future prove one thing, most of the accepted students become successful in some productive way in our society, but half of those who do not make it will simply fail, or something else. Something perhaps more dreadful for both them and America’s future. America spends billions on the world’s biggest prison population, while at the same time filling up our school system with poor teachers who are also not paid all that much, all for the sake of the unions being able to vilify their positions. It has to be for self interest reasons, the kids are certainly not put first, and neither is America’s future.

One segment of this movie truly amazed me, as it presented a real life depiction of what an education crusader must go through when trying to put
kids first, and also ultimately, America itself first. Michelle Rhee, the Chancellor of Washington D. C. ‘s schools is shown in real life footage as she deals with improving on what is the nation’s poorest school performance, right there in our nation’s capitol. She goes about performing major studies on the problems of the school system and considering the probable answers to what seems to be an untenable situation. Unfortunately she is met with angry reprisals from both unions and also the PTA. Teachers were not too pleased with her either as she rounded up and fired a huge amount of poorly performing teachers and then closed their schools. The complaints, however, were not about kids not having a school, or kids not being able to get the education that is needed for America to keep up with the rest of the world. The complaints are about the adults, and how she is messing up their lives, and fighting with their ability and right to have a job. (A sit around all day and do nothing job)

Never mind the fact that many teachers are shown on camera reading newspapers while kids play craps in the back of the classroom. Where’s my safety net chancellor? How dare you! Now Michelle’s benefactor, the mayor of Washington, has lost his bid for re-election and his opponent sides with the unions and the inconvenienced teachers. Michelle’s work may all be for naught in the near future, and so will many future student’s work as well.

The movie does its best to entertain while leveling some mighty scary and heady facts and figures to the audience, and the bottom line message is hugely disappointing. You wont be able to ignore the problem for long if you are really concerned here, and that might be a good thing, for it may call many to action. Unfortunately, it may be too little to late for millions of kids.. and also for America as a whole.

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