Waiting for Superman
I just watched the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” which was released last year and won some awards at various film festivals (though not even a nomination at the Oscars, which seems strange to me - I liked it far better than the Banksy film).
The film follows several children in the American public school system - some poorer than others - as they attempt to enroll in special charter schools. These schools are forced to hold lottery drawings for applicants because they are so coveted.
Of course the greater picture being painted by these stories is the crumbling state of public education in America. Overcrowded and underfunded schools are quite literally falling apart, but it seems these aren’t the biggest obstacles to school reform according to the film’s director, Davis Guggenheim.
Though he is careful not to vilify America’s teachers for their efforts in the classroom, Guggenheim does point out several times throughout the film that teacher’s unions and their beloved contracts have been a hindrance to education.
The most obvious “smoking gun” I find my self taking away from viewing this film is the idea of tenure among educators. Teachers unions have negotiated contacts that forbid school boards from firing teachers (except in extreme cases of misconduct) after they have tenure - an “achievement” that automatically kicks in after a certain number of years on the job.