10-second review: Review of a movie “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” which implies that charter schools are the saviors of urban education.
Title: “School Spirit: ‘Waiting for Superman’” D Denby. The New Yorker (October 11, 2010), 122-123.
Quote: “ ‘Waiting for ‘Superman’ ’ a hot-under-the-collar documentary about the failings of the American school system.” [Make that urban American school systems. RayS.]
Quote: “Despite receiving public funds (as well as much private support), charter schools can hire non-union teachers and adopt their own curriculum and standards. They tend to be small and to include smaller percentages of special-needs students.”
Quote:”But the emotions of the moment may distract us from asking certain obvious questions, such as: Who says that charter schools will save these children—and, by implication, all children?”
Quote: “Summing up her [Michelle Rhee, chancellor of schools in Washington, DC, since 2007] feelings in the movie, she lays out a simple charge, which the movie fully supports: the current system works for the school bureaucracies and the teachers but not for the children.”
Quote: “But what does work for children? Despite the success of the schools in the film, charter schools, judged as a whole, don’t perform better than district schools, and they often perform worse.”
Quote: “The other place to get an idea of what effective teachers do is, believe it or not, Hollywood. There is an earnest genre of what might be called teacher-goes-to-the-ghetto films.”
Quote: The unanswered question: “How can reforms that work some of the time in small schools with engaged kids and committed parents work in an enormous urban school with all kinds of kids?”
Comment: Not stated in the reviewer’s even-handed review of the film is the fact that most urban school districts have “magnet” schools in which the cream of the crop, in IQ, (Masterman, Central High School, etc. of Philadelphia), are siphoned off from the rest of the students leaving the remaining, average and below-average students at the mercy of a society with big problems: drugs, family, special needs, not committed to education, ethnic violence, etc. RayS.