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"Waiting for Superman" raises tough questions about nation's education system

On Friday, Superintendent Annette Cluff took a group of campus directors and teachers to see the film "Waiting for Superman," an exhaustive documentary about  the problems facing the public school system through the eyes of five families.

Thirty people from Varnett saw the matinee at the Edwards theater. The following is a review of the movie by Tyesha Boudreaux, fifth grade teacher, Southwest Campus:

As the credits rolled at the end of the documentary titled “Waiting for Superman,” my first thought was “What else can we do to prepare our children for the future?” “Waiting for Superman” documented the struggles of five families as they tried - some of them hopelessly - to obtain a better education for their children. During the film, parents sought out successful charter schools to accept their children into their programs. One mom even rode a subway for 45 minutes to visit a school.

The five children featured - Anthony, Daisy, Francisco, Bianca and Emily - all had different backgrounds and were all from different places. The only thing that I believe they had in common was that they all were well aware that they were receiving an inadequate education. Most of them were enrolled in failing and struggling schools. At one point in the film, Anthony, a fifth-grader, said that it was important for him to get a decent education so that his own children can have a better life. I could not believe that these words were coming from him. Even at his age, he was already thinking about his children’s future
The documentary touched on many topics, including the fact that billions of dollars are poured into school districts every year, and yet these same schools continue to have the same less-than-average results.

My jaw fell to the floor when the narrator of the film said that funds poured into schools since 1971 have doubled, but test scores have remained the same.

The narrator also said that it costs more money to house a prisoner for a few years than it does to send a child to a private school for 13 years. Is the future of our children worth less than the prison system?

I did shed a tear, or two, during the gut-wrenching scene at the end of the film, when the children were waiting for lottery systems from various charter schools to decide their fates.

Emily was the only one of the five children to have her number pulled during the lottery process. Anthony was put on a waiting list and was later accepted into the school of his choice.

But for the three remaining children, and millions more like them, their numbers were not pulled. They had no choice but to return to their schools.

“Waiting for Superman” was able to spotlight America’s public school system and encourage debate over how the system can be fixed. Hopefully, lawmakers and leaders will take a good look at the system and figure out how to do better by our children.I hope the film will inspire teachers, principals, administrators and lawmakers. Change won’t happen without the right people in the right places.

Geoffrey Canada, President and Chief Executive Officer for Harlem Children's Zone,  was correct when he said that Superman is not real.

He won’t be coming to save us.
He won’t be coming to save our schools.
And he won’t be coming to save our children.
As a nation, we need to stand up, put on the red cape, become “Superman” and save our schools and our children ourselves.

Click here for photo gallery

Read a column on the movie by Pulitzer Prize winner Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune

See "Waiting for Superman" trailer

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