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“Waiting for Superman” Hits a Nerve

By Jimmy Dunne, March 12, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Jimmy Dunne
Thanks to Jimmy Dunne, President of Inspire — an entertainment and branding company partnering on music and DVD initiatives with Whole Foods Market — for providing this blog post. If you didn’t catch Waiting For Superman in the theaters, I can’t recommend enough that you check it out on DVD. (It will be sold in most Whole Foods Markets in March and April.) Davis Guggenheim’s documentary gets under the skin of the public school system in America and, more than anything, it’s a frightening look at how our educational system is broken – and we’re meaningfully falling behind on the global scorecard. It is particularly critical of the teachers’ unions — examining how their position on issues, such as tenure, is affecting the quality of the system in towns all across America. It’s gotten a lot of buzz and has stimulated quite a bit of debate around the relationship between schools and teachers’ unions. I was impressed that, unlike many documentaries that take on an industry or group, the filmmakers didn’t try to make a one-sided case. They articulated the history of the unions – and the noble, passionate causes of their founding fathers. The filmmakers showcase how the unions’ founders couldn’t have imagined the predicament we’re in today – and the filmmakers make a strong case for what they believe must change if we have any shot of turning our national educational system around. The film follows five kids, and your heart will break seeing how much these kids (and their parents) yearn for a good education. It’s engaging, it’s enraging – and it is sure to make you feel how paramount it is that education becomes an enormous priority on our country’s to do list. I’d love to hear your thoughts and impression of the film.
Category: Trends & New Stuff




Kim says ...
Really? They didn't make "a one-sided case"? Sure they did - their case was that charter schools are the cure-all panacea for any problems our public education system has. Ignoring the data showing that most charter schools do no better or even worse than public schools. Slamming public school teachers. Skimming over the devastating effect of child poverty on school preparation and performance. "Waiting for Superman" is propaganda, and I'm disappointed that Whole Foods is going to be selling it, and probably featuring it.
03/12/2011 6:24:19 AM CST
Kim says ...
By the way, you should correctly define what you call "tenure". Most people have the idea that tenure means lifetime employment with no consequences. In public schools it means that teachers have the right to due process before being fired. That way, principals can't fire someone because they have a friend who needs a job, or because they've been a teacher a long time and the accrued salary could pay for two brand-new teachers, or because they don't blindly agree with everything the principal does. I thought due process was one of the founding principles of this country. Also, if so-called "bad" teachers aren't being fired (or even retrained), it's because administrators aren't doing their jobs - observing teachers regularly, providing useful professional development and peer training. If administrators did all this and went through all the steps, they could discipline or fire "bad" teachers, but apparently it's too hard to get out of their offices to actually see what's going on in the classroom.
03/12/2011 6:29:59 AM CST
Margaret says ...
I have to agree with Kim's comment about tenure. Tenure for public school teachers is not the same thing as that for higher education. I have been a teacher for over 40 years and have had fellow teachers that were superb and others who should never have entered the profession. I have never seen one of the latter dismissed. It would take effort on the part of the administration to document and go through due process but that is the way to assure quality in the classroom. That's part of the job of a good administrator. Unfortunately, other duties take precedence.
03/12/2011 5:47:58 PM CST
Becca says ...
I'm disappointed in this post. What does this movie have to do with Whole Food? Besides the fact that you will be selling the video in your stores. I do not feel that a review such as this is appropriate for a grocery store blog.
03/12/2011 8:39:08 PM CST
Cynthia says ...
Why is Whole Foods promoting a ridiculously biased movie that denigrates the amazing work done by educators every day in the nation's public schools? I come to you guys for butternut squash, not an anti-teacher political agenda. Very disappointed in Whole Foods over this.
03/13/2011 9:41:48 AM CDT
The Mathematical Realist says ...
Unfortunately, this motion picture analysis only applies to the overseas descended "citizenry" of America. The education among The Americans themselves far outpaces that of even the finest "schools", for lack of a better descriptor, of all of the eurasian landmass. A fact that usually reduces the eurasian populace to catcalls and accusations of primitive abominations directed solely toward The Americans and their culture and hemisphere.
03/13/2011 4:20:56 PM CDT
becky bond says ...
I have to say i'm shocked that whole foods would put the brand behind "waiting for superman" and take such a clear stand int its blog in the very contentious debate around the future of public education in the U.S. does this guest blog post represent a corporate position?
03/13/2011 9:38:55 PM CDT
bepkom says ...
@Becky: We do not have a corporate position. The DVD is simply a product we carry because we have shoppers that are interested in purchasing it. Thanks for your comment!
03/14/2011 1:34:17 PM CDT
Katherine says ...
Normally don't read WF site but looking for recipes today and THRILLED to read WF support of a great documentary. Face it, American education is in trouble. How do you explain states fighting for Race to the Top funds if they thought they were doing fine;states applied, eagerly, to show that they were open to innovation, recognizing public education has failed to be open to new,TESTED, ideas such as charter schools. And charter schools are part of the public school system, but NEA and AFT choose to ignore that and play the playground bully with our students. Enough! Look at what charters such as KIPP are doing with struggling students--traditional schools can learn from their great ideas and rather than seeing charter schools as a threat and see them as a CHOICE! I will certainly come in and buy a DVD to support charter schools AND WF. Thanks!!
03/16/2011 3:42:18 PM CDT
Anni says ...
I had a lot of problems with WFS, and I actually disagree that Guggenheim "didn’t try to make a one-sided case." The film glossed over the fact that most charters are not any more successful than other schools. Plus (and I think this is important), I do not recall a single mention of an outstanding regular public school - and there are many here in NYC alone - or how the best practices of those regular schools were producing successes. It would have been interesting to see the film talk a bit about what charters were initially meant to do and what they have morphed into. In the end, WFS verged on propaganda for today's version of the charter school movement.
03/16/2011 6:35:03 PM CDT
Anni says ...
Mr. Bepko - What a disingenuous remark!! Of course you are giving it your thumbs up. I want to buy Toy Story 3 DVD...will you carry that?
03/16/2011 6:36:59 PM CDT
Cynthia says ...
All due respect, @MichaelBepko, your shoppers may be interested in purchasing porn, too, but it doesn't mean it should be in your grocery store, getting a big fat promotion on your corporate blog.
03/17/2011 6:41:30 PM CDT
SoulEatsBody says ...
This film was backed up by the billionaire Bill Gates. It is anti-public education, and the backers are pro-privatization. Just more privatization propaganda.
03/20/2011 3:13:30 PM CDT
Andrew says ...
Why is it that teachers take a grand total of 0% of the responsibility when issues with our educational system are raised. I agree that teachers are not entirely to blame. 80% of the blame needs to be directed towards parents for not consistently and stringently participating their children's education. However, I completely disagree that they should not bear at least some of the blame. I have personally been involved in situations where nothing could be done about incompetent tenured teachers. The "due process" required by the unions to get rid of an incompetent teacher is nothing short of extortion. This must stop.
03/21/2011 8:34:21 PM CDT
Ed Augden says ...
I saw Waiting for Superman and am convinced that it's just more corporate propaganda. At no point in the film is society held accountable for delapidated buildings, low teacher pay, excessive class sizes and inadequate instructional materials, just to identify a few glaring inconsistencies the film missed. Who hires all those "bad teachers?" Study after study, including the Coleman Report from the 1960s have identified poverty's effects as a more significant factor than the classroom teacher even though the teacher is the most significant factor at school. Scapegoating teachers will only motivate more good teachers to leave the profession and discourage prospective, highly qualified,possible applicants from even considering teaching as a profession. The average new teacher leaves the profession in less than five years.
09/07/2011 12:38:07 AM CDT
lynn says ...
I, too, am stunned that WFoods would promote WFS. WFS is another corporate propaganda tool. If you want to be balanced, are you also offering a review (and DVD) of "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman" or "The Finland Phenomenon"? WFS is simplistic and biased. For those that believe otherwise, you need to do some research about what is really being propagated by the corporatists in an effort to privatize our education system and break one of the last large unions, the teachers union (and before you bash unions, you can thank them for your weekends and 40hour work week and benefits, even if you are not in a union-again read the history). Check out Diane Ravitch www.dianeravitch.com or read this article www.notwaitingforsuperman.org/.../20100927-RAyersWashPost In Denver, Gates and Walmart along with Ely Broad have joined to do their "social engineering" using our children (If Gates really wanted to help our children he would work to insure that all children have internet access, to bring them into the 21st Century. Instead he experiments, unsuccessfully in an area he did not do well in, education!). Remember, if it is supported by Stand for Children, DEFER, OnechanceColarado, they are the corporate elite and their goal is to privatize our public schools. (Privatization worked so well for Prisons, Health Care, and our Military didn't it?)
09/07/2011 11:31:01 AM CDT
lynn says ...
By the way, for more information about what is happening locally check out Defensedenver.com or go to their face book page.
09/07/2011 12:43:07 PM CDT
John says ...
Since a showing of Waiting for Superman is just being scheduled here in Denver, in conjunction with an all-out effort to privatize our public school system. I am organizing against Whole Foods' support of this film. Sign the petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/whole-foods-stop-promoting-waiting-for-superman
09/08/2011 9:43:33 AM CDT
janejohnson says ...
@Lynn Thanks for contacting Whole Foods Market concerning the "Do Something Reel" Film Festival. We believe that these films help to raise awareness of issues that affect us all and we hope that by sharing these stories, we can create a dialogue about ways we can all make a difference.
09/14/2011 1:11:02 PM CDT