Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Waiting for 'Superman'

Davis Guggenheim's plea for better teachers in the U.S. public-school system has enraged as many viewers as it has inspired. Yes, the five children he focuses on, from the ghettos of New York City and Los Angeles and the middle-class comfort of Silicon Valley, already burn with the desire for advancement; and yes, the challenge is to catch the interest of kids for whom school is a 12-year prison sentence. Yes, talentless pedagogues and the unions that cocoon them in mediocrity aren't the only problem; parents, absent or present, are a bigger one. And yes, the charter schools proposed here as an answer have a spotty record. But Guggenheim, who outlined the threat of global warming in An Inconvenient Truth, expertly conveys his despair and hope about the considerably more imminent danger of an America whose young adults will be ill trained to compete in the global marketplace. With the structure of a good mystery (will the kids win the lottery that admits them to good schools?) and the urgency of a concerned parent and citizen, Guggenheim's movie says we have to fix things fast; we can't afford to wait for Superman.