The Davis Guggenheim film, Waiting for “Superman” (2010-now on DVD), is a good if imperfect documentary about public schools in the U.S. Guggenheim is a liberal who is rightly critical of teachers’ unions.
The Village Voice‘s Melissa Anderson, who didn’t like the film, mentions in her review that the doc-maker asks the question, “What is our responsibility to other people’s children?” She answers the question thus: “Maybe, for starters, demanding a stronger, securer social safety net”–and she knocks Guggenheim for failing to bring this up. But how, exactly, do we obtain this stronger safety net, Ms. Anderson? By increasing spending for unemployment benefits, Medicaid, CHIP, the food-stamp program, and Social Security? Sorry, that just adds to the 14 trillion-dollar federal debt. Do we hike the minimum wage? I actually believe in the existence of a minimum wage, but hiking it now (or even later) is very inadvisable. No, it’s fine that Waiting for “Superman” avoids demanding Anderson’s safety net.
She also writes that “few would disagree that the unions’ bloat and bureaucracy have often had a deleterious effect on public education . . .” Why, then, haven’t people from the liberal elites voiced their opposition to the teachers’ unions?
The parents of five lovable children in the film try to get their kids into charter schools–public schools independent of the public system. Anderson says these schools “do not have high success rates,” and if that’s true, it is to her credit that she points it out. Frankly, it means things are even worse than Guggenheim realizes. Do see his documentary, though. It’s worthwhile. It does our society more good than do the impracticalities of armchair Progressive idealism.