See This Film

Davis Guggenheim, Oscar winning director of global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth has set his sights on his next topic – the sad state of K-12 education in America. Waiting for Superman opens Sept 24, but Dennis Scholl, Knight’s vice president of the arts and Miami program director, recently had an opportunity to preview the film at the Aspen Film Festival. Today he shares his thoughts and challenges us all to action… Waiting for Superman follows five students from across the country as they apply to a lottery for charter school admission. Each knows that this may be his or her only chance at a quality education and avoiding what a John Hopkins researcher calls “Drop Out Factories.” The drama is intense and even Guggenheim admits: “I have to step outside every time I show the last 20 minutes of the film, as I cry every time.” Odds are, you will be crying too as each students’ fate hangs in the balance. Bottom line – Superman is a sobering view of how America’s youth are being denied the education they will need to compete in today’s job market.

Documentary films don’t always receive a lot of studio support, so Davis and his producer Lesley Chilcott are taking a grass roots approach to getting the word out, touring the country and asking each individual who previews the film to ask 20 friends to see it opening weekend.  I’m going to go them one better and ask each of the thousands of readers of this blog to see the film the weekend it opens in your city around September 24. Go to to pledge to see the film. If you care about education in this country, see this film. It is going to be a game changer.

After the film screening at the Aspen Ideas Festival, there was a panel discussion by participants in the film, including Bill Gates, Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, and Eric Adler of the SEED Foundation, a D.C. based public boarding school located in the inner city, (currently considering Miami as its next location).

Canada was righteously indignant about the film’s depiction of the intractability of the national teachers’ unions in being unwilling to discuss teacher quality. During the panel he stood up and screamed during the panel “By law, you can’t evaluate teachers by performance, it’s CRAZY.” Gates took a more pragmatic position, noting that with regard to efforts to evaluate teachers “ You have to win within the teachers’ unions.”  You have to ask, “What do we stand for?”  Gates gave some hope, opining that there is a clear perception that this issue is rising in the American consciousness and that the teachers’ unions do not want to be on the wrong side of it.

Again, I urge you to go to to pledge to see the film. See you in the theater.