In the United States there are over 2,000 dropout factories. These are high schools with a very high number of dropouts. Making sure all students receive the best education and excel in school has been a problem for a long time. Presidents after presidents have promised change in the education system and have signed documents in hopes it would make a difference, but there has been very minimal change. In the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” David Guggenheim stresses the importance of improvement of the current education system.
He presents the issue by using the three appeals, the organization of the film, and cinematic techniques. With all of this, Guggenheim was able to create a strong argument on this issue with the education system of America. After watching this film, it was very clear that there needs to be change. It will take a very long time to fix the damage that has been done, but it will not only take time, but money, research, and most importantly the motivation and willpower to make the change. Guggenheim persuades the audience by using appeals. He does this by using the ethos appeal.
First, he opens up the film by talking about how he is a parent. “Ten years later, it was time to choose a school for my own children… and then reality set in. My feelings about public education did not matter as much as my fear of sending them to a failing school. ” (Waiting for Superman) This automatically catches the attention of the audience and gains the audience’s confidence as well. Throughout the film, he followed 5 kids, Bianca, Anthony, Emily, Francisco, and Daisy. This helps see the different environments they live in, their different backgrounds and upbringings, but all the same bad schools.
By following these kids, it helped better understand the situation and that young kids are also aware that the education system is bad. They express to the audience how unhappy they are, and how they are saddened that it will be hard to reach the goals and dreams that they had set for themselves. They may be young, but they want a better education system because they want to learn. When Guggenheim interviewed one of the kids, Anthony, he talked about how he wants a good education so he can go off to college and provide a life for his future kids, that was better than his own.
This really creates a bond and connection with not only Anthony, but all the kids. To better understand how bad the education system is, Guggenheim successfully uses the logos appeals. He shows many visual maps and charts illustrating the failing schools. He also introduces multiple experts who share their experiences of going through the system or trying to fix it. When Guggenheim would interview the kids and when asking them about their goals and dreams for the future, he would show facts about how it would be difficult for them to accomplish those goals through animations, maps, statistics, etc.
But he also explained that teachers need improvement as well. It has be proven, that with bad teachers, bad students will be produced. Because of tenure, a guaranteed permanent employment, especially as a teacher or professor, after a probationary period, it is hard to get rid of bad teachers because they are protected. In most work environments, if a worker does a really good job, it earns them a pay raise. But that does not apply with teachers and professors The downside of this is thst good teachers are paid the same as bad teachers.
So if a bad teacher teaches 50% of the material that is needed to be taught and the good teachers teaches 150%, then earning the same pay grade is still in effect. And even if a teacher does a really bad job, it is very unlikely that they will get fired because tenure will protect them. Because of this, 1 in 2500 teachers are fired. So through statistics and facts, it has shown that good teachers produce good students and results. Then by Guggenheim using ethos appeals, it strengthens the audience’s confidence in him more. In the beginning of the film, he refers to past presidents.
He states that “public schools have produced 10 presidents,”(Waiting for Superman) and this makes the audience feel like public schools must have been really good back then. He also adds old clips of when the presidents were in the process of getting elected promising to fix the issue of the bad education system. Then later in the film it shows the presidents in office signing documents, in hopes of making a positive change in America’s education system. Because presidents are chosen by the people they become a reliable source for the people of America. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be in office.
So by him including the presidents in the film, it shows that this issue is very big for it to be acknowledged by the most important political figure we have. Guggenheim also uses other authority figures like Michele Rhee, the chancellor of D. C. Public Schools. He captures her experience of trying to fix the education system in public schools to strengthen the use the pathos appeal. As they follow her around, she faces the struggles of tenure and the teachers union. The tenure is the biggest challenge that she had to face because it is something that cannot be changed.
Guggenheim also uses Bill Gates in the video because he is a very smart and popular man. He shows how Bill Gates testifies against Congress and if Bill Gates is testifying, then it must be a big issue because he is very avid about kids getting a good education. By using the three appeals, pathos, logos, and ethos he makes the audience feel the dejection of the situation through the eyes of the 5 kids and their families. In ‘Waiting for Superman” the organization of the film help understand the urgency of the problem. It had a cause and effect structure. Throughout the film, a thing called the lottery was mentioned.
But it wasn’t the kind of lottery that you win millions of dollars and your whole life changes. It was the kind of lottery that changes a life in a different way. Parents submit their children’s name into a contest to get accepted into a better school in their area. This is done because there could be a only 20 spots available in a school and 300 are wanting to get into it. So the lottery is to fairly choose someone to get accepted to go to a better school. And with this in mind, Guggenheim mentions how if the kids that he follows gets accepted into a school, that it would play a very big role in how the children do in the future.
He uses words like “it” and “then;” suggesting the cause and effect structure. This film balances light and dark camera shots. Each signifying something. Light camera shots having to do with a positive message or positive energy, and dark camera shots having to relate to negative energy. This are represented with children playing in a playground or an empty, dark classroom, etc. Also Guggenheim adds a variety of clips from historical events, a scene from the show, The Simpsons, Presidents speaking, and satellite images from Google Maps.
By adding different clips into the film it would humanize ideas and issues that were presented, but it would also add humor to the film at times too. By using these cinematic techniques and many more it would help drive the point across to the audience watching. The audio and sound effects also help to strengthen the purpose of the video. Towards the end, the children and parents are all getting ready to go to the lottery. All being different because they all live in different areas. But when they finally arrive to the lottery, all goes silent.
They are all impatiently waiting for their name or number to be called. And what Guggenheim does to show us everyone and their experience is show short clips of each one, back to back. And then when the lottery begins and names and numbers are being called, it will show us the spaces available for the school each are trying to get into and how many people are applying. He also includes a countdown of each child’s school. So if there are 20 spaces, with each name pulled, it counts it down, adding the suspense if that particular kid is going to get in.
By the end of each lottery, only 1 was accepted and that was Emily. But when Anthony was not accepted instead of it just saying “NOT ACCEPTED” it also said “5TH ON WAITING LIST. ” Giving the audience hope for him. And then, Anthony later receives a call from the boarding school he applied to, accepting him. This makes the audience very happy. And then Guggenheim end the whole film with Anthony leaving for boarding school, choosing a bed, and laying in his new bed looking at a picture of his late father holding him as a baby.