The film plays like a local New Jersey 10pm news story, complete with the low budget and annoying narrator. Bob Bowdon, the director, is not afraid to show his bias. He often talks over interviewees who don't share his point of view, as in the scenes with the school director. And I have no problem with bias and brashness - but it needs some style or humor to make it tolerable.
Early on he brings up the efficiency of Maryland's public schools (attributing it to more teachers, less administration) compared to the inefficient, over-administrated New Jersey schools, but never looks to reform the NJ school system. Instead, the rest of the film is spent supporting charter schools in New Jersey, and focusing entirely on New Jersey school issues and supposing they're the best for the entire country, without looking for alternative solutions elsewhere - how did he forget Maryland so quickly?
The most powerful scenes are the lotteries, where desperate mothers and children look for a way out of their horrible schools. As the USA becomes more and more a winner-take-all society, eduction is paramount to avoiding a life of sickness and poverty. The tears and frustration show how much our Country's poor are aware of opportunity, and if you grew up going to a nice school district - this film will make you realize how privileged you are.
Waiting For Superman
does all of the pro-charter arguments, and lottery scenes, with much more grace and subtlety. The Cartel
thinks you're an idiot, explains the same idea to you several times (with crudely drawn cartoons) and then hits you over the head with emotion and angry narration one last time for good measure, while being completely devoid of humor, interesting music, or production values that offer much beyond a talking head.
As for the central argument of the film, that Charter schools > Public schools, if it's true - fine. Our public education system needs serious reform. If privatizing is the answer, let's do it! We need an educated workforce, we need to give our poorest some real opportunity.
However, according the latest Stanford study
, as well as the mediocre/bad performance of Charter Schools in New Orleans and North Carolina, Charters don't appear to be the answer. I'd love to see a film that looks for solutions beyond our borders