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Teachers Union Head Reacts to <i>Waiting for Superman</i> Teachers Union Head Reacts to <i>Waiting for Superman</i>

Teachers Union Head Reacts to <i>Waiting for Superman</i>

by Nikhil Swaminathan
June 29, 2010


Over at The Huffington Post, American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten takes aim at Waiting for Superman, the upcoming expose on our public education system. The Davis Guggenheim documentary, puts bad teachers and the teachers unions squarely in its sights, according to an earlier review of the movie, also on the HuffPo.

It's no surprise that Weingarten thinks the portrayal of teachers, which reportedly includes the singling out of one poor Midwestern teacher and an account of New York City since-closed rubber rooms, isn't fair. And she makes it clear that she believes Guggenheim is cherry-picking examples to support his assertions:

Who wants to deal with the more complicated (but less sexy) and absolutely necessary (but unexciting) realities, such as the fact that teachers need tools, resources and support to do their jobs well? It's cathartic to say "fire the bad teachers," but it doesn't do much to improve schools. The plain, unsexy fact is that the best way to improve teacher quality is to do a better job of developing and supporting the teachers to whom we entrust our children's educations.

The more I read and report about the seeming scapegoating of teachers, the less I am convinced that the whole story is being told. Weingarten says one thing that it's hard not to agree with: "Ninety percent of American students—nearly 50 million children—attend our public schools. Change in a single classroom, a single school, or even a single school district is not enough."

That said, such a change is a start, and the potential of Guggenheim opening people's eyes to the state of the public education system can only help. And, as Blaise Nutter writes in the earlier HuffPo review: "... Guggenheim is careful not to cast teachers as the villains. That honor he bestows on the adults: all of us, the people who are responsible for these children but, when confronted by such intractable problems, just give up and look away."

So, if viewers leave the film convinced that we are all responsible, it will be a success.

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