Where is Superman? Or is he already here?

Katie Welz, News Editor

The documentary, ‘Waiting for Superman,’ directed by Davis Guggenhein, gives viewers a probing look at the American public school system. Although the news that the public school system is suffering is no surprise to many Americans, many would be surprised to learn that over the past 30 years, the toxicity of public schools has spilled over into the suburbs. Guggenhein takes it upon himself to discover the root of school failure. While many poor environments or budget cuts are seen as the perpetrator, the documentary questions whether the true problem is actually bad teachers.

This leads us to question teacher unions. Joliet West is considered a closed shop in regard to teacher unions. This means that in order to be hired by Joliet West, a person must be a member of the union. Many teachers at our school are a part of the American Federation of Teachers. The AFT has more than one million members nationwide, and has grown into a trade union representing workers in education, health care, and public service. The AFT website counters the documentary in an article entitled, “Not waiting for Superman.” The AFT states, “The film relies on a few highly sensational and isolated examples in an attempt to paint all public school teachers as bad. Had the filmmaker visited some good public schools, he would have found that no good teacher supports tolerating bad teachers who are failing in the classroom.” Mrs. Peterson, one of Joliet West’s librarians, supports the AFT. “My husband was a Chicago public school teacher for over 20 years. Out of the blue, he lost his job, and we are now looking to the union for help.”

However, many people including the director of “Waiting for Superman,” fear that teacher unions are doing more harm than good. The documentary argues that teacher unions protect the bad teachers teaching in public schools. While many teachers truly do help their students to the best of their ability, the documentary does make a viewer wonder how the union can support a teacher who really shouldn’t be in a classroom. Speaking to many teachers at West, many did not want to named. This raises many questions. What sort of power does the union have over teachers, and why can’t they state their opinion? This sort of behavior leads many people to believe that the AFT is hiding something from the general public. Many Joliet West students feel that they should be informed about the union that represents our teachers. What could they be hiding?

As of now, no one knows. Is Guggenhein correct in accusing the American Federation of Teachers of protecting bad teachers? Or is the AFT correct in accusing Guggenhein of slander and not providing all the facts.