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Movie Review: 'Waiting for 'Superman' attempts to out faulty education system

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“Waiting for 'Superman'”

Directed by: Davis Guggenheim
Featuring:  Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee, Daisy Esparza, Bianca Hill, Anthony Black, Bill Strickland.
Rated: PG

Wehrenberg Theatres recently unveiled their Diamond Film Series, which promises to feature “critically acclaimed, independent, foreign, local, art and other cinematic gems.” It's a welcome endeavor and gives one hope for more off-the-beaten-path films making it to Springfield.

The local audience for such fare has been growing steadily in the past few years; kudos have to be given to The Moxie for its part in the cineducation of our hometown.

The most recent entry in the Diamond Film Series is a riveting documentary from director Davis Guggenheim, the director behind "An Inconvenient Truth."

“Waiting For 'Superman' ” is the story of public education as it stands in the United States. It examines many of the problems, tries to dig up the causes and offers some basic (and obvious) solutions to a system that should embarrass all of us who honestly believe we live in the best country on the planet.  

The film features interviews with many of the movers and shakers in the education reform movement.

Geoffrey Canada heads the Harlem Children’s Zone, a network of charter schools and social programs serving nearly 10,000 kids in NYC.

Michelle Rhee has been the chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., since 2007. She is soft-spoken and even-tempered but doesn't mind upsetting the apple cart. And she pays for that passion.

Bill Strickland founded the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in 1968 and the Bidwell Training Center in 1972. These organizations reach out to disadvantaged young people by means of the arts and job training.

On the other side of the fence, Guggenheim interviews the heads of the two largest teachers' unions in the country. They seem somewhat nervous and at times, defensive. No doubt.

One of the problems the film addresses is the fact that, because of union contracts, it's nearly impossible for a teacher - even an obviously horrible one - to be fired.

The film also delves into several other reasons why American students rank so low in math, science and reading proficiency. Finland is the No. 1 overall ranking country.

The real stars - and the ones that will tug at your emotions - are the five kids and their families that Guggenheim and crew follow through the summer before the next school year is to begin. They range from kindergarten to eighth grade and  are all smart kids with a great desire to learn. The parents are dedicated in every way in doing what they have to do to get their kids into a good school. College is the long-term goal.

Besides private and parochial schools - familiar in Springfield - many bigger cities have charter schools that accept students who can meet the academic criteria. But there's a catch. There are always many more applicants than available spots.

So how are the students chosen?

Various and sundry forms of the lottery.

The climax of “Waiting for 'Superman' ” will bring a tear to the eye to everyone who realizes just how important educating our young people is to the future of our country; the entire the world in fact.

“Fun” fact: Each year, the U.S. spends $9,644 per PK-12 student compared to $22,600 per prison inmate.*

“Waiting for 'Superman'” makes a powerful statement and should serve as a wake up call regarding a flawed system.

The beautiful kids featured here are just five of the millions in the same leaky boat. Stopgap measures can no longer suffice.

* Source: Education Equality Project Web site.
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