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Waiting for Superman

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Essay 1: Reviews Essay For this semester project I chose the documentary, Waiting for Superman. This film was directed by Davis Guggenheim, and released in Hollywood, CA in the year 2010. The reviews I selected that were most compelling to me were “Waiting for Superman Movie Review,” published by Roger Ebert, “School Spirit Waiting for Superman,” published by the New Yorker, and “Waiting for Superman: Are Teachers the Problem?,” published by TIME Entertainment. I was able to access all three of my chosen reviews online, and they were published in the same year as the film was released. Through analyzing the three reviews on Waiting for Superman, one major trend between them is that they agree there is some problem with our nation’s public schools system, and the reforms such as No Child Left Behind and receiving tenure contribute to this problem. Agreeing with the ideas presented in Waiting for Superman and these reviews, I feel that the problems existing in our schools could be solved with more funding to provide teachers with higher pay. The first review, published by Roger Ebert, focuses on the main argument of how our nation’s funding could change to better our public education programs. For example, “Spend less money on prisons and more money on education. Reduce our military burden and put that money into education. In 20 years, you would have more useful citizens, less crime and no less national security. It's so simple”(Roger Ebert). This was Roger Ebert’s proposal on how to improve the problems of our public schools. His review offers strong evidence by using direct quotes from Geoffrey Canada and his strategies thus far. Geoffrey Canada has worked to open Charter schools that require highly qualified teachers. The teachers working in these Charter schools are receiving better pay than those in the public schools, which therefore keeps them motivated to give their students the best education possible. This argument is convincing to all audiences and all ages because it makes us aware of possible financial solutions to the problem of some public schools, and also how severe these problems could be for children living in the areas of these low-funded public schools. In the second review, published by the New Yorker, its argument focuses on questioning whether Charter schools are really the best option for students everywhere or just minority schools in low-income areas. This review gives evidence that district schools have been proven to perform better than most charter schools. Its argument is aimed towards families and students in more suburban towns where they can afford to send their children to private, or well-equipped public schools. It also questions, “will charter school ideals continue to benefit only a minority or does it have the potential to change everything”(David Denby). This argument was convincing because studies have proven incredible increases in academic performance from charter schools over inner-city public schools, but not suburban district schools. The third review, published by TIME Entertainment, states that the main idea of Waiting for Superman is to “start conversations, debating, and elevated arguments to get people thinking about a critical problem whose solution has eluded Presidents and parents for the past half-century”(Richard Corliss). It also suggests that this film perhaps moves it to the front of our concerns. This review also argues that the teachers are responsible for making or breaking a child’s educational future. It gives evidence based on examples in the movie of teachers receiving tenure (status granted to teachers, usually after a probationary period, indicating that the position or employment is permanent.), and that they usually stop caring about how well they are teaching or the performance of their students because they are not motivated by the chance of losing their jobs. This supports the argument that if ALL teachers were determined for their students to succeed in school, and obtain the basic knowledge at their grade level, more students would and could be successful no matter what school they attended. These statements are convincing for all audiences because it appears that it is evident for teachers to have a fundamental role in shaping their students’ educational futures. To reflect on these three articles I was not surprised by their responses to this film. I felt that all three reviews successfully addressed the different opinions or issues brought regarding the film, and these were similar to the opinions and issues I had concerns with. Collectively, these reviews did not devalue any topic that I had particular thoughts on. I was a little shocked that there weren’t more opinions as to why our nation’s government has not come to find a better solution to the failing statistics of our public schooling systems. Each review mentioned reforms that have been made or suggestions of reforms that could be made, but neither of the three reviews put that strong of an emphasis on why our government isn’t acting faster, or funding more money into education, which is essentially our nation’s future. I also noticed that all three reviews paid much attention to the fact that “the current system works for the school bureaucracies and the teachers but not for the children.” (David Denby). This statement was extremely thought provoking. It was so interesting to me that the people who have feelings against new reforms, such as Michele Rhee’s suggestion to remove tenure, are teachers and district office people that will clearly want to keep their job security. It frustrates me why they chose a career as an educator if their main focus or concern is not on how well of an education our nation’s children receive. In conclusion, each review agreed with Davis Guggenheim’s theory that our public schools are in fact failing our nation’s children. All three reviews mentioned the element of the film that followed five children from all different urban towns or cities, and how their acceptance or denial into the Charter school near them would impact the rest of their lives regarding their level of education. They also touch on the style of the documentary and how well it was edited as almost a “child’s plea for help”(Richard Corliss). The desperate suspense at the end of the film seeing which children would be accepted or not was heart-wrenching, and made this documentary worth watching. These reviews make many points that suggest it would be beneficial for anyone to see this film to attain more information on the severity of the failure in public schools. The stories of these five children give the film an incredible emotional appeal. By the end of the documentary, the suspense is nail-biting waiting to see the lottery results, and the response from their families is overwhelmingly moving, and brought me to tears.

Works Cited Corliss, Richard. "Entertainment." TIME.com. N.p., 29 Sept. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2013. Denby, David. "School Spirit." The New Yorker. N.p., 11 Oct. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2013. "Tenure." Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2013. “Waiting for Superman Movie Review." All Content. Roger Ebert, 29 Sept. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.

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