The American Teacher “is not” Waiting for Superman – Part 2/2

02 Apr

The documentary, “Waiting for Superman”, on the other hand, argued that non-unionized charter schools would do a better job, and the public schools were failing the nation due to teacher unions protecting incompetent teachers.

However, according to Dona Goldstein writing for Slate, “Only 17 percent of charters are consistently better than traditional public schools at raising students’ math and reading scores.”

In fact, it helps to know who funded “Waiting for Superman” and the small fortune that promoted the film.

To discover that answer, Alan Singer, writing for Huffington Post, says, “The real question for me is where the money came from to make the pseudo-documentary and who is paying to promote a movie that no one apparently wants to see. The answer, of course, is from “Big Bill” Gates and a gaggle of hedge fund investors who smell mega-profits if government financed private for profit McSchools are allowed to muscle in on public school dollars.

“The film is executive produced and financed by Participant Media, which was founded by former eBayist Jeffrey Skoll.

“Participant Media’s current CEO is Jim Berk. When Berk was Chairman and CEO of Gryphon Colleges Corporation, he was responsible for the formation of a private company operating for-profit schools…

“The Denver-based Charter School Growth Fund, a nonprofit venture capital fund, recently announced it had secured $80 million in initial commitments with big donations coming from among others the Walton Family Foundation. Wal-Mart is also a big supporter of the Waiting for “Superman” social action campaign and seems primed to provide us with Wal-Mart Academies modeled on big box stores that destroy communities and small businesses, drive down wages, and provide us with endless quantities of junk.”

– a Conversation on “Waiting for Superman” held at Stanford University –

In addition, Dana Goldstein, writing for The Nation, says, “Here’s what you don’t see in “Waiting for Superman”:

“You don’t see teen moms, households without an adult English speaker or headed by a drug addict, or any of the millions of children who never have a chance to enter a charter school lottery (or get help with their homework or a nice breakfast) because adults simply aren’t engaged in their education. These children, of course, are often the ones who are most difficult to educate, and the ones neighborhood public schools can’t turn away.”

“You also don’t learn that in the Finnish education system, much cited in the film as the best in the world, teachers are—gasp!—unionized and granted tenure, and families benefit from a cradle-to-grave social welfare system that includes universal daycare, preschool and healthcare, all of which are proven to help children achieve better results at school.”

Note from Blog host: America’s public school teachers are expected to create miracles as if they have super powers by overcoming many almost impossible obstacles and when they don’t, they are often crucified by public education’s enemies and critics.

I know what I am talking about because I worked as a public school teacher in Southern California for thirty years and my average work week was sixty to hundred hours a week and the challenges that I faced daily were daunting to say the least.

What is a teacher to do when parents do not supervise homework at home or provide reading time?  In fact, over the years, I heard parents tell their child that if the child didn’t want to do the work the teacher assigned, they didn’t have to.

Conspiracy theories abound but in the case of America’s schools, the war being waged on teachers and their unions and the accusations that the reason the average America’s school child is mediocre is the fault of incompetent teachers that cannot be fired has all the earmarks of a conspiracy of dunces based on lies and myths that have no foundation in truth/facts.

Where is the evidence that there are so many failing teachers that it is the reason America’s students are not measuring up?  There is none.  Although there are incompetent teachers in the public schools (I knew a few – less than 5 out of hundreds), there are not enough of them.

Return to The American Teacher “is not” Waiting for Superman – Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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3 responses to “The American Teacher “is not” Waiting for Superman – Part 2/2

  1. Off Duty Mom

    April 2, 2012 at 06:47

    As a veteran teacher, I agree that the current and ongoing war on teachers is offensive and groundless. However, I have known more than five incompetent teachers during the life of my career — and I’ve not been in it nearly as long as you were. I have to admit that unions (in my experience and by my observation) can make many teachers FEEL secure. As jobs are cut, the “worst” teachers need not fear if they’ve got enough years under their belts — and they know this. But, at least in my neck of the woods, unions are often helpless to fight many battles against administrations armed with legal teams and firepower. If an administration wants to do something (cut jobs, rearrange schedules, eliminate programs, restructure buildings), they usually CAN and DO. Unions can put up a good fight, strike or grieve, but I have rarely seen them WIN outright. With that in mind, how can unions be to blame for the downfall of American Education. Yup. They can’t. They’re not nearly as powerful as outlets such as “Superman” would have the public believe. The only thing they can do successfully time and again is help me keep my job. But, they can’t, say, stop my principal from making that job miserable.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      April 4, 2012 at 14:08

      Off Duty Mom,

      “Unions can put up a good fight, strike or grieve, but I have rarely seen them WIN outright.”

      I agree and the branch of the union in our district never threatened to strike over any teacher that was fired or put on probation. If the union supported a teacher because there was evidence he or she was being wronged, the union supplied the lawyers and went to court but never disrupted the educational environment with a strike. In fact, although we came close to going on strike several times over the thirty years I worked in the same district, we never did. We would teach all day, as usual, and then rally late in the afternoon after school to picket outside the district office. Often, supporting students and parents joined us on the non-strike protest picket line. The next morning, we’d all be back in our classrooms teaching. Those made for longer days because we still had to go home and correct papers and plan lessons. While walking those picket lines, I saw teachers with clipboard correcting student work and a few times I was one of the teachers protesting and walking along reading and grading essays.

      Instead of going on strike, we always managed to compromise and come to an agreement before that ever happened and those strike threats were never about some teacher being fired but about pay and health care.

      In addition, the only time the teachers refused to back down was because the district received huge increases in revenue from the state but was unwilling to pass any of those funds on to the teachers as a pay increase.

      In the district where I worked, the union would go to bat for teachers that had a good reputation but often refused to step in for teachers that had a bad reputation. However, it wasn’t until No Child Left Behind with its benchmarks and standardized tests that I saw Administration getting ruthless and driving the bad teachers out. Before NCLB, administration mostly turned a blind eye to incompetent teachers. In fact, after NCLB, the union NEA-CTA office for our district refused to help the worst offenders when administration started to make their lives as teachers difficult to miserable by assigning them multiple classrooms and multiple preps (teaching different subjects). One stubborn teacher that everyone knew was incompetent resisted to the point where administration assigned her two classes at one high school and three at the other teaching out of five different rooms, and she eventually left the district because the stress was too much and none of the staff grieved or complained about her leaving. We all knew.

      And after NCLB, administration was quick to fire new teachers since in California there is a two or three year probationary period where the district can fire a teacher without cause. I saw one new teacher fired soon after the first grading period and I was asked to give up my prep period and teach one of his classes since the principal didn’t want substitutes doing the teaching and soon, all five of those periods were staffed be veterans that gave up their planning periods (for something like $25 extra a day added to our pay).

      In addition, seniority was not always the basis for letting new teachers go. The credential a teacher had often was used to decide who went and who stayed—not seniority. I have seen new English teachers fresh out of college stay on the job while a teacher that had taught art or auto shop, etc. for twenty or thirty years was let go because he or she did not have the right credential to bump the younger teachers that were hired to teach math, English or history, which are usually the largest departments. In California, teachers must have a specific credential to teach the subject they teach and seniority does not overrule that.

      As for “Waiting for Superman”, that documentary focused on the so called rubber rooms in the New York City school district where incompetent teachers were houses and paid not to teach. However, Superman never bothered to mention that there are more than 14,000 school districts in the United States and while New York’s schools may be the largest district in the nation with a rubber room, how many school districts have rooms like this? The school district I worked in didn’t have one.

      It’s as if the people that produced “Waiting for Superman” were deliberately looking for a few examples to make the nation’s public schools look bad when in fact those examples were probably the exception.


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