I went to a private viewing of “Waiting for Superman.” I found this masterfully executed film dazzling and disturbing. It reminded me that movies can move you to act. Clever, funny and heartbreaking, I found myself unable to leave the theater long after the credits rolled, partly because of my screenwriting and filmmaking aspirations, but also because of the emotional impact of what unfolded on the big screen.
My tears washed away the little makeup I wore. Not one to telegraph the highlights of a film, I will say this: For those who believe “Waiting for Superman” is pro charter schools, this statistic is shared: 1 out of 5 charter schools have newsworthy results. As a former education reporter, I was pleased that telling detail was not cut. My criticism, and spoiler alert, is that the film focused on finding quality schools for students fortunate to have parents who value education in our proud-to-be-dumb-culture. Another statistic shared: 68 percent of incarcerated men in Pennsylvania prisons lack a GED. It’s a no-brainer to say most of them lacked advocates for their education. Enrolling the most motivated and brightest students into selected schools is more than a brain drain, it makes teaching easier and excellence achievable. And following such children produces awesome narratives for a film.
That’s not to take anything away from the sweet-faced children featured in the documentary. They blew me away. So much so that I ditched plans to go slogging (slow jogging) on a sun-hugged afternoon in Byrd Park to participate in a discussion after the film at the University of Richmond. There, led by a team from Leadership Metro Richmond, we discussed what we can do as a community to help public schools. Reforms that encompass the complex causes of student failure and not one-sided reforms should anchor the community conversations stoked by the film. This documentary illustrates the power of visual storytelling and how it can move us to act in unexpected ways. And to think differently. Because I realize, gender discrepancy aside, I am superman. And so are you. The kids are waiting for us.