The film opened in select theaters Sept. 24, to critical acclaim, receiving a 95 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 3.5/4 stars from Roger Ebert and the audience award for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
The film focuses mainly on how the government and the teachers union are preventing American children from getting the education they need and deserve. “Superman” presents many shocking facts like: It would cost the government significantly less to send every child to a private school through grade 12 than it would to keep the same person alive for only four years in prison.
Waiting for Superman also explores why, even in areas where mortgages and taxes are high, the schools still fail or create “dropout factories.”
In the film, the director visits a private and a public school, both in a Midwestern town similar to Webster Groves. The private school had a significantly higher graduation rate and more efficient facilities.
When looked into, the filmmakers discovered some clear differences in the schools’ facilities: The public school had an enormous gymnasium and many school-sponsored sports and activities. The private school had no gymnasium and very few non-academic school sponsored activities. This section of the film focused on how schools have enough money to provide decent educations but spend it on the wrong things.
Internationally, the United States ranks 18th among 36 industrialized nations as far as actual grades and academics are concerned. The U.S. did rank #1 in one thing however: confidence. American students at any given point are more confident or are under the impression they are doing well in school even if, in fact, they aren’t.
Waiting for Superman provides shocking and devastating facts about the failing public school system, but one can only wonder if the film actually has the director’s desired effect on its viewers.
There’s no disputing it: Waiting for Superman is quite a depressing film, and the effect of the visuals along with the nearly unbelievable facts stick with the viewer for some time after, but in the end, “Superman” provides only a problem and no clear solution.