Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Waiting for "Superman" (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Waiting for 'Superman'

Initially, one of the most provocative  things about "Waiting for  
'Superman'" is its poster: a gray sky. A heap of rubble. Twisted  
metal. A war zone. And, in the center, a child sitting at her desk  
raises her hand.
Education is in a war-crisis within the inner city neighborhoods of  
our country.
Such is the reality illuminated in this documentary  by Davis  
Guggenheim  director of  "An Inconvenient Truth" and like the climate  
change issue, public education is often pushed aside in the poorest  
areas, stunted by  the formality of unions and contracts that allow  
bad teachers to go on teaching badly once tenure is granted.
But there is hope. Enter Geoffrey Canada, a man who once cried for the  
lack of a saving Superman. Canada, a good humored and tireless  
personality,carries himself rather like a Superman in human form: kind  
and driven with a single minded purpose, he is able to bring more  
practical educators together in a single bound.
The documentary focuses on Canada's story and his concept of highly  
concentrated schooling to a point, but it is also about the fast food  
way that we view education and the menace of unions that are more  
insidious than any plan by Lex Luthor. And politicians, as well  
meaning as they might be, not governing where the money goes or even  
where it is, once it gets in the clutches of a wayward school board.
We see five kids in the film and they all possess such a buoyant down  
to earth quality. These effervescent traits are contrasted against the  
apathy and in-fighting of school board or (bored) adults. It does  
indeed seem that---Wait! Look up in the sky!---these kids can turn  
things around perched on Canada's cape.
Together with Canada's wisecracking, the kids emerge as one of the  
most heartfelt and compelling aspects of this topical documentary.

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