Can “Superman” Save Our Schools?

Flickr/ <a href="http://festival.sundance.org/2010/">Orange Acid</a> (Creative Commons)


Enthusiasts of wonky documentaries who turned out in droves to watch 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth may have a new film to geek out on. Waiting for Superman, which premiered at Sundance late last week, is Truth director Davis Guggenheim’s critical look at the public education system’s prolonged faiure to educate the nation’s neediest students.

Though Superman shows no overt political leanings, it has a clear villian—the powerful Democrat-backed teachers’ unions. Guggenheim’s criticism of teaching’s perks (lifetime tenure, compensation based on seniority rather than performance) may not be a new idea, but the film takes a particularly tough stance against politicians like Bill and Hillary Clinton, whom Superman characterizes as beneficiares of the unions. And such criticism may garner the film some unlikely supporters—the same conservatives who loathed Truth

In fact, for all its focus on underprivileged, inner-city kids, sections of “Superman” feel like they could have been cut together by Bill O’Reilly. Slo-mo footage of union leader speeches opposing reform that could help problem schools. Hidden-cam video of a teacher reading a newspaper and checking his watch as his class goofs around. New York educators being paid millions to not teach. A major subject of the film, reform-minded DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, runs into a crippling teachers-union road block in her effort to shift pay structures to reward good teachers.” Reuters

An Inconvenient Truth for the O’Reilly set? Now that I’d like to see.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.