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New York Magazine Features Waiting For ‘Superman’
posted by: Alix | September 10, 2010, 02:38 PM   

Not too often a forum for education reform, New York magazine ran a piece this week entitled, “Schools: The Disaster Movie”. The article features the upcoming release of the much anticipated film by An Inconvenient Truth director, Davis Guggenheim, and what most certainly will be a rallying cry for reformers and an outrage for the unions.

Below are some excerpts from the article “Schools: The Disaster Movie”:

'Superman' affectingly, movingly traces the stories of five children—all but one of them poor and black or Hispanic—and their parents as they seek to secure a decent education by gaining admission via lottery to high-performing charter schools. At the same time, the film is a withering indictment of the adults—in particular, those at the teachers unions—who have let the public-school system rot, and a paean to reformers such as Geoffrey Canada and Michelle Rhee who have waged an epic campaign to overhaul the notoriously dysfunctional system…”

“Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and a character in the film, complains that it is 'unfair,' 'misleading,' and potentially 'dangerous…' Whatever its flaws, 'Superman' casts no aspersions on teachers, only on their unions. The idea that criticizing the latter isn’t the same as knocking the former cuts no ice with her: 'Teachers and their union are essentially the same,' she says…”

“Guggenheim calls the commentary part of the film the 'the folly of the adults'—from the parade of presidents of both parties pledging fundamental change but delivering none, to the administrators shuffling bad teachers from school to school, to the union bosses chanting 'It’s all about the kids' while working feverishly to protect their members’ every contractual right and privilege…”

“Not an education reformer at heart, what inspired Guggenheim to make the film was the experience of driving his children to school in Venice, California. At 46, Guggenheim is an unrepentant liberal and supporter of the public schools. And yet here he was, passing three of them every day on his way to the private institution that his kids attend, 'betraying the ideals I thought I lived by…'”

Waiting for 'Superman' is no manifesto. It offers no quick fixes, no easy to-do lists. What it offers is a picture of our schools that isn’t pretty, but that we need to apprehend if we’re to summon the political will necessary to transform them. 'Nobody ever wants to call a baby ugly,' says Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. 'This is like calling the baby ugly. It’s about confronting brutal truths...'”

In the vein of creating an “op-ed” style movie, Guggenheim has created a film that showcases with simplicity the problems in education today. You may draw your own conclusions about the “villains” and “heroes” of the movement and the motivations of the filmmaker himself. What is clear is that we must recognize that teachers are not synonymous with unions like Ms. Weingarten suggests; rather they are individual professionals with ideas and opinions to bring to the education reform dialogue. In fact, about 900,000 teachers do not belong to a union.  Of those, over 300,000 teachers belong to non-union associations like the Association of American Educators.

AAE encourages everyone to see the film. It opens to a limited release September 24th.

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