For decades, the conversation about our schools has been the preserve of the education Establishment—and the result has been a system that, with few exceptions, runs the gamut from mediocre to calamitous. Waiting for “Superman” is no manifesto. It offers no quick fixes, no easy to-do lists, no incandescent lightbulbs to unscrew. What it offers is a picture of our schools that isn’t pretty, but that we need to apprehend if we’re to summon the political will necessary to transform them. “Nobody ever wants to call a baby ugly,” says Duncan. “This is like calling the baby ugly. It’s about confronting brutal truths.”
Looking squarely at those truths will cause the blood of some viewers to reach a roiling boil. Fingers will be pointed, and they should be—directly at the adults who have perpetuated the grotesqueries that consign generation after generation of America’s children to failure. If that leads to some hellacious donnybrooks, so much the better. “If you want to change public education, you have to do something that feels like a threat to the status quo,” says Canada. “If we don’t fight about this, if we can shake and be friends, we ain’t going to change. And if we don’t change, huge numbers of kids ain’t going to make it. There is no Superman coming to save them. All they have is us.”
By “us”, he doesn’t mean a bunch of do-gooder social activists. He means the people who are responsible for children’s education: their parents.