Anthony, a fifth-grader who lives with his grandparents in Washington, D.C., home to the worst public school system in the nation, wakes up every morning, wanting to believe in his school. But the truth is, no one with enough power to save him and his education will be coming. Michele Rhee, the former chancellor of D.C.'s public schools, who during her recent administration introduced reforms that tried to tackle the school system's major problems, said, "I know that these kids are getting a really crappy education right now."

This documentary, written and directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," follows several children just like Anthony, whose parents want them to have a good education but can't afford private school. This human element makes the movie much more emotional, and you feel a personal connection with the young boys and girls who are being pushed through the public school system -- prepared or not. They will eventually attend the dropout factory closest to their house, a nickname given to poor performing public high schools across the country where the dropout rate is more than 40 percent. There are more than 2,000 dropout factories in the United States.

I recommend this movie to everyone because it really stresses the problems in our country's education system and how the U.S. is falling farther and farther behind other developed countries. It is very depressing but highly informative because it states the truth about our education system and how bad teachers are the main problem. The most heartbreaking part is that kids are picked by a lottery to see if they can get into a successful charter school, and those who don't get picked remain in their school with ineffective teachers. It is frustrating because even the most terrible teachers almost never get fired due to tenure under the teachers unions' contracts, which guarantee permanent employment.

However, I was somewhat disappointed by the end of the movie because it did not offer any positive outlook for how the education system can eventually be fixed. The movie informs us of the major problems in the system, but it does not give a clear message as to how we can get rid of the bad teachers and reward the good ones without the teachers unions objecting. By the end of the movie, I definitely did not have any optimistic or hopeful thoughts about the future.

This documentary is a must-see because it shows that if our public education system is not drastically improved, the future of America will be very dismal. We will not have enough skilled and educated workers to compete in the global economy. What makes this movie even more emotional is that these kids desperately want to learn, but there is no Superman to save them.

Michael Khan is a freshman at Canisius High School.


"Waiting for Superman"

Rated PG

3 stars (out of 4)