I have posted here several critiques of the film, “Waiting for Superman,” so I do not need to repeat these criticisms. The most fact based criticism is here What Superman got wrong. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/what-superman-got-wrong-point.html
My goal in the following is to share my own reaction to the film.
First, it is an important film and I encourage people to see it. It illustrates to a rather uninformed public several of the important issues including the budget crisis in schools and the importance of having quality teachers.
In October the film, “Waiting for Superman” dominated the television talk shows, forums, and press with a message that public schools are failing, the teachers’ unions are to blame, and that charter schools are the answer to the problems of public schools. Superman is not only a film about schools, it is also a part of a wider sophisticated assault on unions and particularly public sector unions. In the Fall 2010 election in California Meg Whitman extended the criticism of the teachers union and made it a major issue in her $160 million dollar self financed campaign for Governor. The film and the Whitman campaign illustrate how corporate funding produces a political narrative. The corporations and the foundations involved are distinct, but the process of corporate or oligarchy funding to shape the political and economic dialogue are similar.
The film Waiting for Superman is a part of the effective strategy of corporate take over of education policy and corporate victories in framing the issues of education reform . Historian Diane Ravitch describes this corporate take over in her well written book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System; How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. (2010). There are several specific criticisms of the facts and the framing in the film including Ira Shor of the City University of New York saying “Overall it benefits the hedge fund billionaires now bankrolling charter schools and conservative politicians,” on the site http://www.notwaitingforsuperman.org/
Prominent education historian Diane Ravitch, formerly an Under Secretary for Research in the Department of Education during the Reagan Administration, criticizes the film as propaganda citing substantial evidence that charter schools do not have a record of producing better achievement than public schools . ( NYReview of Books). ). [ full disclosure. This writer has long criticized Ravitch for her positions on multicultural education and particularly for her role in writing the California History/Social Science Framework, the document that shapes whose history is taught in California school textbooks.] Ravitch argues that Superman is a propaganda master piece blaming unions for the many problems of public schools including the budget crises and alleged problems recruiting and keeping quality teachers.