Movie review: "Waiting for 'Superman'"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The title of new documentary "Waiting for 'Superman'" comes from educational activist Geoffrey Canada. Growing up in the South Bronx, he kept waiting for a superhero to come rescue him from his circumstances.

The five kids at the heart of "Superman" are still waiting for the same thing. Most come from poor inner-city neighborhoods where students are more likely to end up in prison or dead than in college.

It's a heartbreaking fact, especially when coupled with a story like that of Daisy, a fifth-grader in East L.A. whose chances of being a doctor or a vet will be slimmer if she doesn't get one of the 10 open slots at a local college-prep charter school. There are more than 130 applicants.

He may have won an Oscar with Al Gore for "An Inconvenient Truth" and directed several videos for Barack Obama, but director Davis Guggenheim isn't playing politics here. The film's main villains are the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, two of the largest unions in the country.

According to "Superman," many of those unions' protocols have actually lowered the nation's teaching standards. Most troubling is a new trend of shuttling poorly performing but tenured (and therefore un-fireable) teachers from school to school.

All of that politicking has overshadowed the idea that many kids just want to learn - and it shouldn't take a superhero for them to do that.

Of course, no mythical figure ever appeared for Canada, or for these five kids. And that's why Guggenheim's movie is so important right now. If nothing else, at least the discussion can start again.

"Waiting for 'Superman'"

Opens Friday

4 stars out of 4