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Waiting For Superman Project

AP Lang

Jake Wong

on 26 August 2014

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Transcript of Waiting For Superman Project

What is Guggenheim's Argument?

Guggenheim carefully chooses reputable speakers who support his argument against the teachers.
The film uses childish animations to mock the school system and the teachers. Compared to the children's desperate pleas for help, the animations seem inappropriate.
Special camera angles are used during critical moments in Bianca's story.

Waiting for Superman
emphasizes the need of better teachers and the flaws of the school system over the more striking problem of poverty and unemployment.

The film assumes that teachers are the only cause of the bad student performance.

The film ignores the financial issues of parents and the quality of poor neighborhoods.

The film ignores the inadequate financial support given to public schools in poor neighborhoods.

While Guggenheim emphasizes the effectiveness of charter schools, he gives credit only to their different learning system.
Special emphasis was given to “tracking” students and over time, the increasing gap between advanced and regular students.
However, it is apparent that extra funds were needed to create the better-off charter schools.

The film chooses to focus on five children who are already passionate about seeking better learning opportunities.

Guggenheim assumes that these children are a representative sample in their communities.
This helps support Guggenheim’s point that the children are not at fault; it is the bad school system and “lemon” teachers that are responsible for the poor graduation rates.
Anthony says that he “wants his children to have better than him.”

Being able to uncover missing elements helps the viewer better understand the film's bias. Rather than mentioning how lower incomes may be linked with low proficiency rates, Guggenheim uses the idea of poverty to evoke sympathy for some of the film's featured children.
Featured Speakers
The film carefully selects prominent speakers who help support the film's criticism towards teachers and ineffective school systems. The chosen speakers give the film more ethos.

Michelle Rhee - Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools from 2007 to 2010.
Bill Gates - CEO of Microsoft
Geoffrey Canada - President of the Harlem's Children's Zone
The film uses childish animations, such as teachers “filling a head with knowledge” and the “lemon dance.” It seems oddly amateurish and unacceptable when compared to the children’s real, desperate pleas for help.

Lemon Dance
Filling heads with knowledge
Simpson's Scene - Tenure
School system's options
Camera Technique
The close ups of the lottery balls and the children’s faces during the lotteries add suspense and highlight the fact that a child’s future may be determined purely by fate.
Graphs below show the direct correlation between income level and education. In all three graphs, the same trend is evident: the higher the income, the lower the chance of dropout.
The graphs below illuminate more trends, additional to the direct income-education patterns in the United States. Graph 4 shows the disparity of SAT test scores, which links logically to the difference in education. Graph 5 shows similar trends across the world.
However, while the evidence proves to be a positive turn for the teachers and the stagnated school systems, the pressure to close to education gap shifts to those who have the power to close the income gap.
The Inverse - Can Better Education Reduce the Risk of Poverty?
Generally, labor can be classified into two categories: skilled and unskilled. Skilled labor is labor that is hard to replace and requires certain knowledge or abilities. Unskilled labor is easily and cheaply replaced. After all, unskilled workers are only worth viable if their wages are under those of the leading automation options. Already, we have seen robots replace factory workers and even baristas. In essence, workers must become skilled to avoid replacement and to bargain for better wages. The key to becoming a skilled worker is education.
Income Level: A Major Determinant of Educational Proficiency
Alex Scales, Julian Wei, and Jake Wong
The Guggenheim Argument
In his film
Waiting For Superman
, Guggenheim carefully constructs a biased view towards the correlation between income and education. He ignores the effects of a family's income, and focuses the film on the faults of school systems and teachers.

Guggenheim primarily takes a negative stance towards the school workers and the teachers. By placing all the blame on those people, he lessens the blame on low-income families. Since the film does not explicitly link income to the level of education, one may say that Guggenheim takes a supportive stance towards low income families.

Bianca’s mom had to work overtime to create the opportunities for her daughter.
This decreased the time she was available to her child, and Bianca was not able to get the full-time support and school help that other children receive.

One can observe how much extra care is provided at the charter schools (including medical care and counseling).
Of course, money is not all that matters, for the charter schools may indeed have better teachers and a more effective class system, but it was dishonest for the film to ignore the discussion of resources.

Can education bring people out of poverty?
“It’s a vicious circle: poverty makes it harder to get an education, and lack of a good education makes it more likely that you are poor” (Spagnoli 1).

"There is no more significant indicator for economic prosperity than education."
- Steve Murdock, Ph.D. Rice University , Department of Sociology
Waiting for Superman ignores widespread problems of poverty in low-income neighborhoods.
The film ignores the inadequate financial support given to public schools in poor neighborhoods.
The film chooses to focus on five children who are already passionate about seeking better learning opportunities to help themselves achieve more in life.
At first, the information presented in the film may seem objective and thorough, but upon further examination, one can identify many issues and factors that were ignored.
"Children's lives are hanging in the balance here, and we are making all the wrong decisions."
- Michelle

“The children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores...higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion” (Reardon 1).

“The probability that a top-scoring low-income student completes college is about the same as the probability that a low-scoring high-income student does” (Spagnoli 1).

“The achievement gap between children from high and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier” (Sage 1)
According to a study done by the Harvard Graduate School of Education called “Change in Family Income-to-Needs Matters More for Children With Less,” “increasing the income of a family of four below the poverty level by roughly $13,400 over three years improved the children's performance in school to a level similar to that of children from families with twice the income” (Salas 1).


Drop Out

Guggenheim decision to solely target teachers and the school system is dishonest.
By disregarding the impact of the parents' financial burdens, he offers a more limited view of the subject.
Moreover, the more further research reviews about income-education trends, the less credible his argument against teachers becomes.
All the graphs display a clear education gap between the richest and poorest quartiles; this plethora of evidence takes some of the blame off of teachers.
As we saw in the graphs, higher incomes are linked to higher education levels. Thus, the better educated parents may pass on their motivations, confidence, goals, and knowledge onto their children.
Secondly, children of higher income household may have access to more academic, social, heath, counseling, and other positive resources. Together, this web of resources contribute to a more healthier community as a whole. In such a community, students can more confidently set goals and maintain passion for learning.
Now, one can understand the two links: that the education can lift the poor out of poverty, and for that to happen, more than revamping the school system has to occur.
As a fellow student, one must become aware of not only the great teachers that contribute to one's success, but also the middle-class suburban community that envelops the school.

On the other hand, as a dutiful member of the community, one should help provide the facilities and infrastructure that could help close the income (and education) gap. One is obligated to participate in any work or event that contributes to the healthy functioning and positive reinforcement of the community. Guggenheim's bias has illuminated not just the faults of the school system, but also those in our community. And it's up to us to help.
“Since they can’t take on poverty itself, education policy makers should try to provide poor students with the social support and experiences that middle-class students enjoy as a matter of course” (Ladd 1).
The techniques used during scenes of Bianca and her mom highlight their household's sacrifice for better education.
Bianca's can't go to graduation:
Bianca side view - looking out window
Nakia's close-up full face interview
Side Views: action shots
On the subway
Signing papers for the Harlem Success Academy
Pencil Scribbling
Harlem Success: Final lottery numbers
Extreme close up of both Bianca and Nakia
Secondly, children of higher income household may have access to more academic, social, health, counseling, and other positive resources. Together, this web of resources contribute to a more healthier community as a whole. In such a community, students can more confidently set goals and maintain passion for learning.
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