Review: Waiting for Superman

I recently saw the film Waiting for Superman, which despite the title is not a comic book film but a documentary about the US education system.

It had received rave reviews but I think it was deeply flawed, it oversimplified the problem and was emotional manipulative.

Basically it poses the question why is the US no longer top of the world when it comes to education league tables?
Comparing the 1950s with today the US seems to have dropped from #1 to around #20

One of the reasons offered is that part of the issue is that the rest of the world has simply caught up with the US economically in the intervening period. The film covers this entire aspect in less than a minute and spends a large proportion of the film attacking the teacher’s unions.

Bad teachers lead to poor teaching and poor teaching leads to a cycle of educational underachievement for many students.

Bad teachers stay in their jobs due to their union-secured contracts which guarantee them tenure (which unlike tenure for university professors is apparently automatic after just a number years of service) and tenured teachers are virtually impossible to dismiss.

This is probably part of the problem but it ignores the larger socio-political issues.