Why 'Superman' film should be 'Waiting for Batman'
This was written by Susan Graham, a teacher of family and consumer science (formerly "home ec") for 25 years. She is a National Board-certified teacher, a former regional Virginia teacher of the year, and a fellow of the Teacher Leaders Network. This appeared on the Teacher magazine website.
By Susan Graham
I was "Waiting for Superman," but I was disappointed. A lot of other people who see this movie -- which paints a distorted view of urban education and unfairly portrays teachers -- are going to be disappointed too, because it should have been entitled "Waiting for Batman."
Waiting for Superman director Davis Guggenheim is just too young to have met the Superman and Batman from my formative years. He should watch more TV because he’s got his superheroes mixed up.
When I was a kid, I came home from school and watched the black and white 1950s Superman series reruns. The Superman I came to admire didn’t go around kicking butt, taking names, and self promoting.
He watched, he waited, and when all other resources had been exhausted, Clark Kent dashed into a phone booth and stripped down to his tights. Superman believed in the people around him. He seemed to think of them as decent honest citizens who were capable of making their own choices.
So when Superman did step in, he didn’t impose his own solutions until human options had run out and innocent people were going to be hurt. Then he simply removed the barriers, got things back on track, and made it possible for everyday folk to continue to pursue truth, justice and the American Way.
Once ordinary humans could get a grip on the situation, Superman slipped out of the picture, put on his Clark Kent double breasted suit and horn-rimmed glasses and went back to his day job at the Daily Planet. He had no agenda of his own to impose. He didn’t try to fix Earthlings so that they become wannabe Kryptonians. Superman had the power to reshape our world, but what he seemed to want to do is to blend in and help out.
I was a teenager when Batman stepped out of the comic books and onto the TV screen.
Bruce Wayne, "millionaire, playboy, industrialist, and philanthropist" saw his parents murdered and he vowed to revenge their death by imposing law, order and righteousness on the criminal element in Gotham City. Wayne put on his Batman cape, fought the bad guys, and then retreated to the Bat Cave.
I never really cared much for Bruce Wayne. I thought he was arrogant and aloof and I never bought into his elitist perspective of the world around him. He had the money, the power, and the resources to work with those around him to make a better world, but he chose to impose his personal agenda of truth and justice. He used his position of entitlement to put on a mask and work outside the system. Batman was willing to rescue the little people from evil, but he never seemed care to mix with them after hours. As both Bruce and Batman, it was always sort of all about him.
The one thing Superman and Batman had in common was a secret identity. Bruce Wayne lived a reclusive life and had the Bat Mask going for him, so it’s plausible that he managed anonymity. But back when I was watching those old Superman episodes, it really bothered me that the entire staff of the Daily Planet could be so oblivious.
How could they not notice that Superman and "mild mannered reporter Clark Kent" were one and the same? Lois Lane, an investigative reporter, who pined for Superman and snubbed Kent, never questioned the coincidental but consistent disappearances of Kent when Superman showed up. Jimmy Olsen, cub photographer, archived images of Superman without ever noticing the Man of Steel was the spitting image of Clark Kent without glasses. Editor Perry White had a reporter with X-ray vision, but never recognized or utilized the potential power behind Kent’s dependable but unobtrusive work habits. What a waste!
And that brings me back to Waiting for Superman. Education stakeholders, like the staff of the Daily Planet, aren’t paying much attention.
There is an army of Supermen and Superwomen among us disguised in alphabet sweaters, apple jewelry and UNICEF/Save the Children ties.
Teachers are intervening in the lives of children every day and some of them have been doing it for 35 and 40 years under conditions that would crush the spirit of a mere mortal.
They’re not out there trying to "fix" children so that they look more like little Bruce Wayne Juniors. Most teachers are doing all they can to empower children to define and pursue their own understanding of truth, justice and the American Way.
All we ask is that we be allowed to do our job without being weakened by the Kryptonite of manipulation by power brokers, without exploitation by politicians, and without denigration by the media.
We’d prefer to stay in our classrooms with the kids, but there are over 4 million of us out there and before this is over, some of us just may have to take off our glasses and put on our tights.
Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!
| October 18, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: School turnarounds/reform | Tags: batman, davis guggenheim, heroes, superheroes, superman, susan graham, teacher leaders network
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