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Waiting for 'Superman' (2010)
convenient, yet imprecise
This movie flows in the same vein as the Oprah Winfrey Show, Fox news, CNN, and McDonald's. It's tasty, yet difficult to digest.
There are a few themes strung throughout this noose of a movie. One major theme is: win the lottery and you'll succeed. There are two lotteries in Waiting for Superman. One is the lottery that is played out in the gymnasiums of the schools, with numbered ping-pong balls and kids who make your heart ache. The other lottery is 500 billion dollars, the $$$ of the school system in America.
For students in this movie "win the lottery and you'll succeed" means they have to be lucky, or else the public school system will fail them. This may change though, as superman is on his way. Superman is not in the guise of an administrator or a teacher. Superman is a politician (and his sidekick an entrepreneur). The business of education is a lottery. Billions of dollars are to be had by superman if he and his sidekick can fix the lottery. Students must rely on luck concerning their lottery; yet, superman can supersede luck because he and his partner have a lot of money. But they want more.
The definition of "fix" is different for politicians and businessmen than for regular people. For most, fixing the education system means making it better for the majority of people involved. For superman and his partner, fixing the lottery means using his influence and wealth to enable a tiny percentage of the population to suck money from the education system. If superman fixes the lottery, he is much more likely to 'win' the cash that comes from the business of education in America.
There are many problems with education in North America. Inviting businessmen into the sphere of education in such a manner is not a path to improvement of the majority.
The Children's Story (1982)
A terrifying alternative: James Clavell's The Children's Story
Think about a great teacher you have had; a teacher who really listened to you and opened your mind to new ideas. Sounds great, doesn't it. Now imagine such a teacher who uses their power for evil rather than good and you have the teacher in James Clavell's The Children's Story. This short film, based on Clavell's story of the same name, is set in a typical American classroom, but certainly not in typical times. The unthinkable has happened, we have lost a war and the new Leader has just replaced all teachers. In a mere 25 minutes, all that we have believed in and have taken for granted all our lives are shattered.
The message of this film is terrifying. The illuminating portrayal of the power that a teacher may hold over impressionable young minds is very thought-provoking. Within a few minutes of her arrival in the classroom, the new teacher (who tells the children to just call her "Teacher" for now, when asked her name), completely alters their ideology by sweetly convincing them that the Pledge of Allegiance is wrong in that it makes a flag more important than a person. She goes even further in her desecration of this symbol of nationhood by suggesting that since it is such a 'pretty' flag they should each have a piece of it. The children gleefully proceed to cut themselves each a piece of the flag.
The attack on their beliefs continues when she challenges the act of praying, all in the pretense of learning about their daily routine. With candy as a bribe, the teacher convinces the children that praying to God, a practice they had been following all their lives was useless. Even Johnny, the doubting Thomas of the class, is won over when the teacher rewards him for his sharp thinking in questioning her actions by making him class monitor for the week. The brainwashing continues with a speech about good thoughts and bad thoughts and the necessary re-education of the children's parents to eliminate any bad thoughts. What a clever Leader to use schools to manipulate children as a way to undermine an entire society!
The Children's Story is definitely a must-see for anyone interested in social theory and power relations,not to mention brainwashing.