Faculty debates “Superman” at Askwith Forum

2 min read

The Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty members participating in an Askwith Forum panel discussing the controversial documentary Waiting for “Superman” expressed mixed emotions about the film’s emphasis on charter schools and teachers unions, and agreed it’s a small glimpse of a large and complicated education problem.

“You could tell a number of stories about why the American education system is not measuring up and children are not getting the opportunities that we want them to have, but the movie essentially picks one of those stories — the ‘how markets can combat bureaucracy and create efficiency story,’” said Assistant Professor Jal Mehta, noting that he would have broadened the picture to include how poverty, inequality, and inequities in the teaching profession hamper school reform efforts. “This story is not told.”

Waiting for “Superman,” directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also produced Academy award-winning film An Inconvenient Truth, was screened three weeks ago at the Ed School. Since the film’s release in early October, it has garnered significant attention and debate in the media including two one-hour specials of The Oprah Winfrey Show. The film follows a group of students and their families – all except one live in low-income urban communities – and their quest to get into a local, successful charter school as means to a better future.