Waiting for Superman fails to address incompetent, non-advocating parents

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

I finally got around to watching the documentary Waiting for Superman last night. The film came out at Redbox, so I went ahead and spent my $1 to see what it was all about.

Several children and their parent are interviewed for the film, and in each case, the parent is passionate about seeking better education for his or her child. Each parent ends up entering his or her child into a lottery. The lottery has been created because the demand outweighs the space and resources in the school for students, so by law the schools are required to hold a lottery where the children are chosen at random. The students who are not chosen go home defeated, often with crying parents.

The mother of Bianca, a little girl from Harlem says, ““I don’t care what I have to do. I don’t care how many jobs I have to obtain, but she will go to college. And there’s just no second guessing on that one.” Then she adds, “You don’t get a job you get a career. There’s a difference.”

The parents interviewed in Waiting for Superman know that there is great value in a quality education, even if they themselves did not receive one. Watching the parents fight for the best for their children reminded me or Dr. Ben Carson’s mother, who only had a third grade education, yet made her two sons spend time reading books in the library and limited their use of television.

The parents in the film may not have received a high level of education and they may face struggles such as unemployment and having family members with substance abuse problems, but they are well aware that education is key to success.

When listening to “dropout factories” talk about their schools, it becomes very obvious why parents invest a lot of energy into finding better schools for their children. For instance, in reference to a failing LA school, a man says ““We lose 800 kids between 9th and 10th grade.” He goes on to say that many of them are on a first to third grade reading level and have been pushed through the system. Who would want that for their kids?

I have been reading a book for my graduate class called A Path to Follow: Learning to Listen to Parents. One point made in the book’s forward that I found relevant to this film is that “In some cases, parents believe that academic development is a domain of teacher expertise and responsibility.”  Some parents may not question the quality of their children’s education. They may assume that the schools are doing enough for them, and may never give much thought about the idea that the education system may be failing their children.

The only aspect of the film that stuck out to me as lacking was the fact that competent and incompetent teachers were represented in the film, but we only saw competent parents. What about the parents who are not questioning the quality of their children’s education? What about the parents who are drunk on a Wednesday afternoon, or who never help their children do any homework? What about the parents who say “get out of my face” or “I’m going to sell you to the cashier.” What about parents who are still teenagers and are more involved in their own life that that of their child? In order to present an unbiased view, the film should have addressed the fact that not all parents are that actively passionate.

The children waiting to be chosen in the lottery were sitting in those rooms because their parents or some adult who cared about them had advocated for them. What about all of the children who do not have an advocate? When a school takes a pool of students who all have someone advocating for them, the results are bound to be more positive than if they were taking a legitimate sample of the population. Unfortunately, all students do not have parents who have the knowledge, passion, or strategies necessary to advocate for them. Where were those kids during the filming of Waiting for Superman?

By the way friends, I just created a facebook page, so check it out!

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