Sorry, kids, Superman aint comin’. So it’s up to us mere mortals to try and save America’s very flawed – if not completely broken- public education system. That’s the take-home message of the new documentary, “Waiting for ‘Superman’”. The film is a call to action in the vein of Al Gore’s global-warming conscious-raiser, An Inconvenient Truth (same director). It’s Scared Straight for parents and politicians. And it’s quite effective.

The film has its flaws – the biggest being that it’s about 20 minutes too long. But it’s an important enough issue to warrant widespread attention and viewership – as well as dialogue and response, which it invites through the film’s website,

The heart and soul of the film is the story of several school-age kids who are being under-served by the public schools that geographic boundaries would dictate they attend. The heroes are the youngsters themselves, the parents and guardians who struggle to look for affordable alternatives, and the battle-weary, innovative educators who refuse to accept the status quo.

The villains are basically bureaucrats, politicians and a teacher’s union that protects bad teachers by awarding them tenure based on “time served” rather than job performance. The stories and stats are shocking, depressing and maddening. And it’s heartbreaking to see how and why some kids’ futures may very well hinge on a lottery for coveted spots in select charter and magnet schools.

Sure, the film probably exaggerates some things to some degree – for dramatic effect. But that’s okay. It’s designed to raise awareness and build support for a public school system where the kids really would come first and where “No Child Left Behind” wouldn’t  just be a catchy slogan. See it. Discuss it. Fix it.

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