Tonight: 400 Free Tickets to "Waiting for Superman"

To thank you all for making the last three years of life so amazing , I’d like to take you to a movie. Tonight.

I’m giving away 400 tickets to “Waiting for Superman” in San Francisco at 7:10pm (the SF premiere!), which opens tonight in several cities nationwide. If you get one of the 400, please print out your Eventbrite receipt and come to the theater around 6:30pm to get your real ticket. I’ll see you there and will also be giving DonorsChoose gift cards to every attendee.

The iconic Paul Graham has called this movie “probably the most memorable movie I’ve ever seen.”

I cannot imagine a more important film for Americans to watch… and it’s a fun watch. Truly a must-see. To keep it short and sweet: please make a point to see this film. It will change you.

See you at the movies, whether in person or in spirit.

Spread the word!

Other ways to help:

1) Have a birthday or other celebration coming up? Consider doing this, as I did. Wildly successful.

2) Other options for parents and you… yep, that means you. As much the 25-year old male programmer as the mom with three kids. See the film and then take just five minutes here.

Have a wonderful weekend, all. Much love to you and yours.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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76 Replies to “Tonight: 400 Free Tickets to "Waiting for Superman"”

  1. There’s a lottery system to get into a good school? OMFG! That’s terrible. Looks like a good film, can’t wait to see it. Can’t make it to San Fran – thanks though Tim!

  2. Hi Tim, hopefully the theme of the movie will inspire you for your next book. It is certainly getting my brain in gear as I speak to schools about not needing much money to get started investing for one’s future. If anyone can figure out a better way to educate, I know you can.


  3. It’s Ironic that the website listing for cities that are playing the movie spelled Philadelphia incorrectly.

  4. Sorry Tim, but from what I’ve seen of the trailers and the stuff on the website, it doesn’t look all that great. If people don’t realize how bad our educational system is it might be a good wake-up call, but I hope that’s something most Americans already realize. Maybe I’m just young enough to have seen what it’s like now (and I went to a good school). I’ll have to see if they offer any solutions that would work in the real world or if it’s all emotional fluff.

    [NOTE FROM TIM: Speaking as someone who’s seen the movie, they discuss some valid options for improving the situation.]

    It was pretty clear to me in high school what the problem with public education was. None of the administrators and most of the teachers didn’t care if what they were doing actually worked. Why? They didn’t need to. It wasn’t like we could go somewhere else.

    They said they cared. I went to a school that had a fair amount of money and they implemented all sorts of fancy programs that were supposed to be innovative, but it was a joke. The school won awards and school administrators came from all over to see how great it was, but we, the students, knew better. Only half my senior class graduated, and it wasn’t because they weren’t smart enough. The programs didn’t work.

    On one of the clips from the movie they showed Bill Gates. Unfortunately, he has spent a lot of money to make things worse. My high school received a lot of money to implement one of his programs. Fortunately, I had already graduated, but my brothers weren’t so lucky. The program was all about sorting kids by what they thought they wanted to do in life, rather than let them explore the possibilities.

    Could you imagine trying to run a business like that? Never looking to see if what you’re doing works–forever creating new marketing schemes and begging for more investors to invest, but never looking to see if any of it is making a profit. Public schools are the antithesis of the 4-hour work week principles.

    [TIM: I agree. It’s a total mess. That said, I think you’d like some of the model successes they profile in the movie.]

    The only way I can see to really measure the success of a school is by how many students want to go to that school. Standardized tests and even grades are lousy measures of how much a kid learns or is inspired, but it is the only way schools have to measure success so long as kids are forced to go to the same school. The other problem is there is no natural force to make them improve. You can’t force a school with laws or threats to pump out kids who get test scores. You have to change the environment the schools are in. The only way I can see doing that is attach the money to the kid, rather than the school. Parents will have the power do what’s best for their kid’s future, more money will be given to teachers rather than wasted by administrators and schools will be forced to innovate and improve in ways that actually work.

  5. Bugger. I’m in Singapore and won’t be able to make it in time.

    Quick suggestion, Tim. I’m new to the site and to your book. I’ve found a lot of the links in the older articles don’t seem to work. Maybe you can set a VA to work checking it out, especially with site traffic set to rise as news of your new book goes viral.

    Have a lovely night, all lucky SF residents.

  6. I will have to watch the movie to really get the jest of it but I bet my opinion will still stand, we need to work on being our own superman, personal responsibility.

    Josh Bulloc

    Kansas City, MO

    How can I help?

  7. Somebody is in a good mood. 🙂

    Bummed I’m not in San Fran (I’m actually usually there visiting at this time of year), but thanks for giving back so much in so many ways. To be honest, I purchased the new book and it could be the worst thing I ever read (I don’t anticipate that, just sayin’) and I’d still consider it a bargain with respect to all the invaluable, thoughtful and insightful content I’ve gleamed from your material over the years. Hoping you realize great success from this.

  8. @Josh Bulloc – You are absolutely right that personal responsibility is absolutely essential. But people can’t teach themselves everything, and a bad school environment can easily beat down a lot of desire for self improvement. So many kids never discover that they love to learn.

    However, I don’t believe the government can do enough for education, so it is really up to individuals to step up and create companies and organizations that can. The reason I don’t believe government can is that it relies on a few people forcing their ideas on the system. That is what I have seen. To really improve things, there has to be natural forces in play to promote good ideas and prune the bad. Sal Kahn from the Khan Academy is an excellent example of something that works by naturally being promoted. He doesn’t have to force people to learn the way he teaches because it’s actually effective. He chose to step up and be a superman for others and they use their personal responsibility to accept what he offers.

  9. I am from the Philippnes. We have the same problems here.

    I speak from one school to another hoping that I will be able to contribute a little more. A change of thinking about schools and education is necessary.

  10. Hey Tim,

    Just another commenter who life has been hacked by your wisdom. :o) You revolutionized the way I view life in general and have inspired me study languages again. Anyhoo, I am jonesing to see this movie but unfortunately I don’t live in SF, but if going to see this movie in NYC & paying $14. for a ticket will inspire more theaters to show this film then it will be money well spent!

    Can’t wait for the new book! I tried some tips for your earlier posts and basically live in my Vibram 5 fingers and can’t wait for the full monty!!



  11. The teachers unions are going to *love* this movie…

    Another problem: failure doesn’t exist. If you fail an english test, you have the opportunity to make it up 2 more times, and the teacher must write in detail what they are doing to improve the student’s learning. If they fail the class, they sit in front of a computer for 8 weeks to make up the credit. The principal looks down upon F’s and encourages teachers to “round up.”

    I’m sure the movie will show a large number of students with intrinsic motivation, but often that is not the case. My wife hears this argument often: “my daddy don’t have a HS degree and he’s doing just fine, besides, I’m going to be working in his auto shop, why do I need to learn about conjucations?”

  12. :o( Wish SF wasn’t 6 hours away! Free tickets and gift cards. Good movie, good people, amazing cause…so bummed to miss out!

  13. Whew, some sobering stats there.

    I’ve come across such great talent in many of the overseas VAs that help me with my business that I fear for America’s future sometimes.

    Thanks for the head’s up on the movie, it’s the first I’ve heard of it.

  14. Cool idea for a party, Tim. This movie might not change our education system, but it’s totally gonna get Michelle Rhee a job as an American Idol judge.

  15. Thanks for doing this… I have been following this movie’s story from the beginning and feel it is impactful/important. I’m in Philly, otherwise I’d join you!

    My goal is to not only watch it, but take an idea I’ve been working on to affect/improve education myself.

  16. I will watch the movie, but I’m not optimistic that this isn’t another liberal snapshot of a problem that fails to address the root causes of why the schools have been on a downward trend for so many years.

    My husband teaches 5th grade at a ‘Title 1’ school, and consistently has the best-performing class in the school. Not only for record-levels of improvement and final test scores, but also the best-behaved class as well.

    #1. He has more instructional time because he isn’t dicking around trying to get the kids settled and organized — he has *very* specific rules for his classroom and they are enforced consistently so he wastes very little time. #2. He’s a natural teacher: he engages the kids in the educational process… he teaches them to THINK.

    #3 He’s the positive male role model that most of the kids don’t have in their lives. He has more kids coming back to visit him during the school year than the rest of the teachers combined.

    From my observations, from talking to my husband, and talking to other teachers, my take is this: attitude and behavior are actually the biggest challenges the schools face. Particularly in poor areas, like his district, the kids are raised in an environment of entitlement and the concept of actually working is foreign to them when they start school. They are generally also raised in environments that don’t trust or respect authority — rules are challenged and the liberal response that prevails in schools these days is to give them a hug instead of holding them responsible for their actions. (I’m talking about natural consequences, like missing recess when you don’t do your homework.)

    Finally, the sad fact of the matter is that some of these kids simply won’t try because they don’t believe they can achieve success.

    I think the media should follow closely the affects of the money the facebook guy is throwing at the one school district in NJ. (I’m bad with names, and too lazy to look it up right now.) Should be a good experiment in what the administration does with the money and if any of the programs they implement or “stuff” they spend it on has any real effects.

    Now for some rambling thoughts:

    My own kids went to what is considered to be a high-achieving public high school. IMO, most of the teachers were mediocre, as were the administrators. It’s considered ‘high-achieving’ because they have a very low dropout rate and a huge number of kids enter college after graduation. The fact that 85% of the student population comes from households with college-educated parents is a bigger factor than anything the school does. The kids come from families who value education.

    The current goal of forcing every peg, round or square into the same hole is archaic. At least half of the courses my own kids took were a complete waste of time. So much of what they teach in high school is either a re-hash of stuff they’ve been taught their whole lives, or it’s something they’re just gonna have to do over as freshmen in college. Or filler classes like art, keyboarding, and ‘technology’ (usually taught by someone who couldn’t get a job in technology or somebody following instructions from a ‘Dummies’ book).

    In India, if you are lucky enough to get to school, you only have 2 years of high school, then you can start your college studies. Makes sense, especially if you’re doing similar coursework.

    We can move right on up from criticizing high schools to the curriculum in colleges. WAY too many folks graduating with useless degrees in ‘liberal arts’, ‘political science’, and ‘sociology’. Do you want fries with that?

    Now for a bit of total honesty: Both of my sons are gifted. Doesn’t take much effort on their part to learn. However, neither seem to have much desire to achieve anything. Especially the older one… they just do the bare minimum in just about every area of their lives. Neither have ever been in much trouble, but they don’t have passion or motivation. The problem, created by me and their dad: they’ve never wanted for anything. WE’VE spoiled them. I can’t blame the schools for it. Sure, they can do trigonometry and write a research paper, but the skills don’t mean squat without desire on their part.

    1. Hi Valerie,

      Thank you very much for your comment. I agree with all of your points before the self-described “rambling” points. Some good points in there, too, but I don’t agree that liberal arts degrees are useless, but maybe I’m biased since I have one 🙂 I do think that building driven well-rounded people with global conscious is as important as job prep.



  17. Thanks Tim, I’ve seen this discussed on 60 Minutes and it’s a real eye opener. I’ve got a 2 yo son and hate the idea of moving out of SF but the school system here compared to the ‘burbs makes it difficult to stay. i appreciate your generous ticket giveaway and the increased awareness of the issue. BTW, Congrats on the new book as well!

  18. Good Catch William!

    I must say Americans loved being entertained. I’m always finicky about donating money, because you unsure who’s actually getting paid/ DonorsChoose and a few other I trust.

    When I donate to Donors Choose I actually get feedback and pictures of how a school is doing.

    I was one of those kids in the movie. I manage to move up and move out and attend college. It was extra hard in college b/c high school didn’t teach me well, but I persisted.

    These kids need hope and persistence.

  19. I’ve just returned from the summer holidays and I believe I’ve read something similar to the content of this movie in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”. 1 of the chapters is dedicated to the story of a young girl and her “lottery” ticket (pro’s&cons) getting her in a KIPP school.

    Very interesting story and a subject with immense gravity for future schooling programs/plans.

  20. I’ve always wondered what would happen is you just paid teachers ridiculously high amounts of money. Not administrators, but teachers.

    Many of our best and brightest, who may even want to teach, would never consider it, because they are doomed to make less than half what they would otherwise make right out of college. They know that this salary won’t increase much over their lifetime. When I went to college the school of education was where students went after they failed out of the business school, journalism, chemistry, etc. and this was at a university were the education department was considered pretty good. At every level education pays a penalty.

    Could an influx of brilliant teachers begin to solve some of the larger technical and social problems?

  21. Tim

    America is not the only place where there are educational problems. Here in Canada we have similar problems as well. I came from an educational system that just pushed me through the system and never really learned that much. Was put in the dumb class. years later due to frustration of not going to university. I went back and got my BAH after 7 years of hard work and dedication. If I can do it so can anyone else.

    I saw this movie on OPRAH and it shocked me what we as a society are doing to our kids. It seems that job security has trumped over quality of education. Lets get out there and see this movie to open our eyes and make the future happen for the nations children.

  22. I can tell you that the schools were already failing in the 70s. My own experience was so bad that I decided I would homeschool. It was not without problems, but overall, it was a resounding success. My daughter is getting ready to work on her doctorate, and my son is in Army intelligence.

    My own take on this is that without parental involvement and commitment, nothing is going to work for long. My son decided he wanted to go to a public high school in the late nineties, and it was awful! It did more damage to his education than anything else I can think of. He came home after a year, took his GED, and then went to college a year earlier than most (at 17).

    My husband and I have both taught language skills (writing, foreign languages) on the college level, and the visible decline in students’ emotional maturity is another area of concern. This is another area that can only be addressed by parents.

    Also, it’s not just math and science that we need help with – it’s language skills as well. The best way to improve writing skills is to read a lot of good writing. We don’t have our kids do that any more. They need to have good stuff read to them from the time they are little, and then be reading good stuff from the time they first start reading – not just the dialog on video games. No amount of grammar drills and/or heuristic exercises in the Freshman year of college will make up for 18 years of nothing but video games and the boredom of badly written textbooks.

  23. Hey Tim, after the 2008 speech you did on FORA.TV about Swimming, learning new languages, and ballroom dancing, did you get to talk to anyone regarding the education system?

    Since you’re a big fan of “hacking”, maybe you’ll appreciate the Khan Academy – a totally free library of lessons on youtube.

    Salmon Khan was a Wall Street guy was helping his nieces and nephews learn mathematics using a phone and a software tablet. They got the help they needed, but he took it one step further and put the lessons on youtube. By putting them on youtube, his family members could just replay them over and over. He created a bunch of lessons. You can learn everything from calculus, chemistry, banking, statistics, etc. It’s really very remarkable.

    I put his vision for the Academy as the website in my sig

    He’d be a great person for you to talk to.

      1. Tim,

        I agree about Khan Academy. I tutor math and I’m developing a course to take students (kids and adults) from algebra through calculus. The pattern in derivatives isn’t difficult to get (x^3 –> 3x^2), but calc classes inevitably suffocate students with limits in chapter 2. There are authors out there jumping straight to differential equations (even with kids), and C.K. Raju in India took a group through a 5-day calc course (no limits) with promising results. You don’t have to sit in a trig class for a year to learn what a sine wave is. What advice do you have for someone like me who is trying to put across some real math minus the non-essentials?

        Peter Farrell

  24. Gah, if only I lived anywhere around there.

    I hope you keep up this rapid amount of chances to meet you and such while doing other awesome stuff. Maybe something on the other side of the country someday soon 😉

  25. Saw this movie at the NYC premier last weekend… I agree a lot with what Jake said up there. If the teachers union stays as powerful as it is today, and they gain tenure so easily, our school systems are never going to improve. We can throw money at this situation all day, but until parents and teachers start taking responsibility of their children’s education, our country is just slowly going to decline. Our country’s education system is outdated. We know that not everyone learns the same way and that standardized testing is less of an indicator than originally thought. We need more personalized learning experiences for students, combined with better after school mentoring programs.

    Students aren’t born hating school, my 5 year old niece just started kindergarten and loves waking up and going to school to LEARN every day. Unfortunately we all know that this is going to eventually wear off by about 6th grade and she’ll slowly lose interest like the rest of the youth…

    I am glad that this movie is bringing mainstream attention to this matter, and I honestly think that a major change in the way children are educated will occur during our lifetime. Either that or the rate of home schooling will probably skyrocket in years to come.

    Hope you like the movie as much as I did!

    Tim if you get any tickets for NY showings, I’d happily go again : )

  26. Ten years ago, I was living in Egypt across the street from a public school. I woke up each morning with the sounds of hundreds of students repeating words after their teachers in a zombie-like manner.

    In that same neighborhood, there were kids who didn’t have the privilege to go to any school, and they spent their days playing soccer in the street. The kid in the street looked up at the walls of the school, wondering what it would be like to have the privilege of learning and graduating to a respectable job. And the kid in school looked out the window at those playing in the street, wondering what it would be like to escape the boredom of that classroom, and spend the day playing.

    who was the luckier one?

    We need to evolve from an educational system that prepares us for an industrial age that is no longer there, to a mentorship/coaching system that starts from the uniqueness of every individual and builds them up to be who they are, not who the system wants them to be.

    Alright. Enough Friday morning ramblings from me 🙂

    Thanks for the treat, Tim. Hope to see you there.

  27. I’d love to go, just for a chance at meeting my favorite author. Unfortunately, I’m in the Baltimore, MD area and i think finding a flight in time would be tricky. I first read the 4HWW two years ago and it has forever changed my view of the corporate world. So much so, that I no longer feel as though I’m part of the herd and have begun working on my own software to sell commercially. I’ve probably read the 4HWW about 14 times and i continually find new things to apply in my work and personal life. Among other things, I’ve managed to turn 3 wks of vacation and 10 holidays into 10 weeks of time out of the office and have eliminated much of the clutter and distractions out of my life. I’ve already pre-ordered 2 copies of “The 4hr Body” and I look forward to reading it and applying some of the principles in December 2010.

  28. Tim-

    I would like to pose a question to you and all your readers, a creative and incredible bunch of people. Here goes, “What do you think would fix the education system?” Better yet, “What crucial element could be tweaked to improve the transfer of knowledge to youth?”

    I think the industrial, factory-type system we use is broken but may not be beyond repair.

    You understand incentives better than most anyone I have ever met or heard of. There has to be some incentive for people who could be GREAT teachers to be in that field other than warm, fuzzy feelings. I do not however, recommend throwing money at this problem. There must be an extrinsic reward, but having an effective intrinsic reward is crucial as well. If only the warm fuzzy feelings were enough. I’ve been extremely lucky to have instructors and role models who have shared insight and intuition with me despite the income provided by their profession.

    Looking forward to your thoughts Tim, and the thoughts of any of your readers.


  29. Two quick comments:

    1) Michelle Rhee is such a badass. I know she’s controversial but I think she’s making some incredible changes AND managing to be painfully honest at the same time. No glossing over problems with her. Love it.

    2) I was in Germany for a few weeks in August. We stayed with some students while we were there. A couple were studying to be teachers and one was studying to be a doctor.

    They told us that teachers are paid more than doctors in most cases. I’ll say that again, Teachers are paid more than Doctors.

    I think one our of the reasons our education system is broken is because of our priorities. Is education truly a priority in this country?

    Well… only if it’ll make you good money after you’re done with your studies.

  30. As a 2009 high school grad, I don’t think there can be enough publicity along these lines. Tim, thank you so much for posting on the topic. As Gates said in the trailer, it takes a lot of outrage to begin a process of change, and I can’t wait to see how you tackle this subject in the future.

  31. hey Tim

    I am from France and I loved your first book

    I like the way you make thinks happen, you are doing so good

    but allow me one thing here =

    Giving nice gifts for American people is very great,

    but I think you should considere that you are now world wild known and that there is some amount of people who are not from America and love what you do…and read you on internet

    So my suggestion here is that this part of people is a real potential for you aswell and total part of your succes from now and tomorrow

    people that can read aswell your blog or follow you on twitter and so on….and can not be located in USA to appreciate the gift you can make,)

    friendly yours


  32. Terrible timing bro, I’m taking a bus from LA -> SF and it arrives at 7:30. But thanks to your post and the movie trailer, it made me realize that I don’t need to be rich now to be generous. You helped me realize that even $33 can make a difference so I donated to a literacy project.

    Are you still matching donations?

  33. As a stay-at-home mom, and new homeschooler (which allows me barely 4 hours a week to get my muse started), I have spent countless hours reading about education, and how miserably our schools actually educate. I am looking forward to seeing this documentary and I so wish I could swing coming up to the city tonight (I’m in Santa Cruz). I am trying to find someone to watch the kids, but it doesn’t look promising. Thank you for bringing this movie to the attention of your (fans? followers? looking for a better word and not finding it).

    Of all the reading on education I have done in the last 6 months, I highly recommend John Taylor Gatto’s books ‘Dumbing Us Down’ and ‘How Children Fail’.

  34. What an inspiring film concept! It really goes to show how polarized education is in the USA – we’ve got some of the world’s best to offer, but we fail so many. Right now I’m in Russia working in education, where the situation is far worse. And man, how many global problems would be simplified if we could actually tackle this issue. It just makes all the political lip service characterized by lack of follow-through all the more disheartening.

  35. I think the issue goes even deeper than the schools inability to educate. We have a parental problem. Parents are not stepping up to the plate. I know my parents helped me with homework and assignments. My parents made sure I wasn’t being a disruption in the classroom. The education of your son or daughter is up to you. Do you make them do their homework? Do you help them with homework? Do you meet their teachers? Do you provide them with the discipline they need to educate themselves? Education is not something that is done to you, but it something that you do to yourself.

    1. Agreed 100%. If you want to know why Asians, including Indians, generally (but not always) do better in school than other nationalities, you only need to live with a family for two days to understand why: academic performance is viewed as #1. There are definite cultural factors, and race-agnostic parenting factors, that come into play.


  36. You, your books, and your blogs are full of win. Thank you Tim :), I live in Florida but I will definitely watch this movie tonight and absorb the information.

  37. Looks like something that would be important for all us in the US to keep in mind. It may not be surprising info that our schools are not so good but I’d like to know some of the details and some of the positive stories of how good people are tackling the problem.

    Thanks for doing this Tim, very kind of you.

  38. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for making us aware of this movies. Looks like an intriguing movie to watch. I’d love to come tonight but unfortunately, I won’t be able to come to San Francisco this time. But I will watch the movie later when I can get a baby sitter for my 3-months old 😉


  39. Thanks Tim for doing this! I think that parents should be involved with their child’s education and stop relying on the school system to do everything. For example, if you see that your child is having difficulties with a subject throughout the school year, take the responsibility come summertime to make sure they are getting ample amount of training in those subjects so that they can come back the next school feeling like they have improved. Stop buying all of these video game systems and allowing them to watch tv all day everyday in the summer and make time for education. A great book is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. 10,000 hour rule. If we are not spending enough hours with our children about education, then how is it going to get any better?? Take the initiative to help them improve and stop putting all of the onus on the education system.

    With that being said, our education system has got to do better. The fact of the matter is that the schools are failing our children. The education system needs to be held accountable for the lack of improvement and rewarded when the schools are successful. Also, In my opinion, they need to get rid of Tenure at the high school level because each year and everyday teachers should be motivated to making sure the kids are reaching the maximum of their potential and beyond. Obviously with the way Tenure works, once they reach that status, it’s really hard to get rid of them if they are not teaching at a high level. That is ridiculous. Teachers should get in this profession if they are willing to go above and beyond to help educate our children. I believe that the public sector should be gutted out from top to bottom and put administrators in place that are going to care about this problem and find successful solutions.

    I know that doesn’t cover it all but that’s just my 5 cents for the day!

    Tim You Rock.

  40. My sister is an AP teacher in Virginia. She echoes every concern presented here, and adds some. May we be farsighted enough as a country to finally dig in and turn this around. It is very challenging for dedicated professionals inside the educational system to keep their morale and hopes and efforts up through years of grinding idiocies. Thank god for this spotlighting film.

    And warm thanks, Tim, for yet again contributing your mind and web real estate to helping!!

  41. ps. For you parents out there, I would like to add that my teacher-sister’s critique of the education sytem involves parents. She has been appalled at parents’ lack of responsible engagement in their children’s lives, including education. Just be aware: students educational woes are starting well before they hit the classroom.

  42. This movie has generated a lot of discussion amongst teachers and education policy experts across the continent. A lot of that discussion has taken place on blogs and on Twitter (hashtags #educationnation and #edchat) partly because people who represent other opinions on education reform than offered up in “Waiting for Superman” were not invited to Oprah or the Education Nation forum on NBC. People like this would include Deborah Meier, Alfie Kohn, Gary Stager, and Will Richardson.

    I’m a teacher in Canada, but have a lot of interest in the topic because education policy decisions in the US do have some affect on the discussions in Canada and I have a lot of colleagues in the US.

    If we accept that there is a ‘crisis’ in education in the US (&/or Canada), consider these questions:

    – Are standardized tests the best way of determining what a person knows and understands?

    – Can a complex activity like teaching be reduced to one measurement? Would you say someone is healthy just because their body temperature is normal?

    – What other professions are publicly ranked and evaluated on a single measurement?

    – Is teaching the only or biggest factor in determining someone’s success in school? What about the effects of poverty, systematic racial discrimination, malnutrition, and parenting?

    – Are charter schools scalable to a national level and is it the correct set-up for all situations?

    – Are charter schools really as successful as portrayed in the movie and Oprah? (Statistics from the measure they use – test scores – would indicate otherwise)

    – Is the charter school lottery that adds drama and tension to the movie the fairest and most caring way of allocating spots to a school for the children and parents involved?

    – If tenure is so prevalent in teaching, why were more than a 130 teachers able to be fired from Michelle Rhee’s districts in Washington last year?

    Tim with your experiences and viewpoint I would have thought that you’d be in favor of an education system that generates thoughtful, questioning, creative, lifelong learners, not students that crammed facts and memorized processes to pass a test. Education reform may be needed, but charter schools, measuring teachers on test scores and more standardized testing is not the answer. I encourage you to read some of the counterpoint to ‘Waiting for Superman’ including Rick Ayers’ article “An Inconvenient Superman” in the Huffington Post, “Are Charter Schools Really Innovative” by Marion Brady in the Washington Post ‘The Answer Sheet’ blog and “Education Nation & Ideological Blindness” by Gary Stager on his blog Stager-To-Go. Also on Monday, Oct 4th at 2pm PST there will be a free online Education Reform Dialog using Elluminate featuring a lot of the expert voices not invited to the NBC events. Details on the Future of Education and Edutopia sites for how to take part for free.

  43. In a world that has more resources, more information and easier, virtually free access to important information than ever before, it’s a shame that we don’t steal this responsibility back from our failing US government.

    Education doesn’t belong to the government, and they don’t cherish the job.

  44. Hi Tim,

    I look forward to learning tonight! Thank you for the ticket.

    You mentioned you were looking for photos of before and after pics. I am a 25 year old male who is 6 feet tall and weighs 155 pounds. You could call me the definition of a geek. I have terrible vision, no muscle, and a superb academic record! At no point in my life have I ever been able to build any noticeable muscle. I tried once in order to impress a girl I was dating. I’ll leave it at epic fail and we are no longer dating.

    Here is the skinny. I live in San Francisco and would be willing to spend the next two and a half months keeping extensive data and taking lots of pictures. If you would like to use me as a final lab rat to provide relevant and timely proof of concept for when the book is released then I submit myself to your mercy. It would be a geek to freak story of epic proportion. Very little effort required on your part other than giving me the initial instructions and data points you would like me to collect. We both come out winners. I’ll see you at the show tonight if you are interested.

    Best wishes,


  45. Education in the US has been on a steady decline ever since the federal government formed the Department of Education.

    The problem with our education is that it is controlled by government. We will not see sustainable improvements in the system until we end the Department of Education and start moving toward a system of all private schools. So, while this organization is doing a good job at putting a spotlight on this issues, they are not doing such a good job on helping the problem. Pumping more money into a broken system WILL NOT solve the problem. It is very much the same as trying to automate inefficient practices… the result is just an exposure of the inefficiencies (from the 4 Hour Work Week book).

  46. Here is some alternative perspective on the movie.

    I don’t mean to make for a political debate on this blog, but I think we to be conscious that the movie writes a particular narrative about education that warrants serious critical reflection.

    People need to be conscious that the movie doesn’t isn’t dialed in to the whole story — that in fact there is a vastly different (and in many ways very opposed) perspective some take about what the purpose and shape of education reform in the US ought to be.

  47. The documentary just ended. I haven’t cried in seven years. Tonight the tears came up. I tried to hold them back, but as the lottery numbers were chosen I couldn’t help it. I wanted to take each child and show them it wasn’t over. Tell them not to give up. I wanted to show them what an educated mind was capable of. What THEY were capable of.

    It is hard to express emotion through a blog comment post, but from the bottom of my heart thank you. The poem you shared from Burning Man rings in my ears.

  48. I just saw the movie screening in SF! Thanks so much Tim!! Talk about putting out the vibe to create the culture for change by taking us all to the movies tonight!

    My insight?.. I remembered that it was a visitor (college grad) to one of my high school classes that sealed the deal for me that I was going to college no matter what, no matter how long it took. (That was during one class, English, during my whole HS experience.) So perhaps it’s time for me to visit some high schools? ..I’m on it.

    😉 Thx for being at the screeing Tim.

    Gloria Contreras

  49. michael, thanks for the links to the criticism. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did want to respond to the criticism. After reading the criticism I think I may like it more than I thought. Point by point from the first link:

    1. More money may be needed, but it’s not going to do any good if it isn’t going to be spent well. My school had money and most of it was wasted. Just like companies, you often need much less than you think if your system is good.

    2. Standardized testing is a lousy measure of success. I agree with that. A better measure is how many people want to go to the school, which is why alternatives like charter schools or private schools are important.

    3. I agree poverty should be considered, but you can compare two schools in the same community to see which one is better. This is hard for me to really answer without knowing exactly what was in the movie.

    4. Unions are generally forces to keep things the same. They may fight for more money and better pay, but they often prevent radical changes and new ideas which are what we need.

    5. I agree that teacher education is important, as long as the education they get is good.

    6. Tenure removes extrinsic motivation to improve, which is not in the best intrest of students.

    7. Charter schools may not be the best solution, and many of them may not be better than the regular schools, but the important thing is that they provide a venue for new things to be tried and explored. Having a way for things to change may not mean that they will, but not having a way for them to change means that they will stay the same.

    8. Having lotteries does show that parents want to try something different because they don’t like what they’ve got. They want choice. If the money is attached to the student rather than the child, they have power to choose. The market will balance the need naturally.

    9. Competition is the most powerful force for innovation that I know of. Can you think of a better one?

    10. My brother in law is a good teacher but he is frustrated that the hard work he puts in isn’t rewarded. If you want to encourage teachers and get more people to teach, reward the good ones.

    11. I agree that the fact disproportionately high salaries are paid to financial specialists have an influence on this. This is a whole separate issue, and off the subject as to why this is.

    12. I don’t think we are at war for dominance, because I don’t think that we need to be dominant. But I do think that we need to have better education to live better lives.

    13. I don’t know enough about the situation to comment.

    14. Teachers should be accountable.

    15. I don’t know enough about the point in the movie to comment.

  50. @Shaun Kjar – I really like your question: “What crucial element could be tweaked to improve the transfer of knowledge to youth?” I don’t think there’s just one solution to improve the transfer of knowledge, but It got me thinking about some changes.

    – The principle of discovery should be the foundation. The attitude about knowledge needs to change. I’ve seen that educators seem to feel that information is boring but it needs to be forced on students because they will need it later on. I’m a self-taught programmer and the greatest thing about that was the feeling of power when I figured out that I could solve a problem I was having with that knowledge. At that point it wasn’t boring at all, it was exciting. The principle of discovery is all about giving people a problem to solve, or a mystery to explore, and just enough tools to go and let them discover things for themselves. I had a conversation with a kid who didn’t like literature. I opened one of my favorite novels and read him the first page and started to explain all the mysteries on that one page and in a few minutes changed his entire attitude. Mysteries are powerful.

    – Use the principle of making. Making real programs, electronics, stories, businesses, solving real-world problems with math, etc is fun and empowering.

    – What isn’t measured is generally ignored so use many methods to measure what is working and what isn’t. I think smiles are a good measure. There are lots of ways beyond standardized tests.

    – More physical education. Exercise helps people remember things.

    – Student’s need safe ways to say they don’t understand something. I had a teacher who, rather than just asking if anyone had questions, asked how many people had a firm understanding of what she just taught. It was okay to raise your hand when half the class did as well, and it was good for me to see I wasn’t the only one who was confused.

    – Short lessons or lessons that are broken up. Kids (and I) have short attention spans. It’s hard to remember too much all at once.

    – Spend the most time focusing on the most important things. This may sound obvious, but it’s rarely done. The amount of waisted time in class and pointless homework I have had to do is ridiculous. The 80/20 principle really applies here.

    Those are just a few ideas, but I would love to go to a school that used them.

  51. Valerie,

    I felt the need to respond to your post. So I will share with you some of my rambling remarks.

    You expressed a great deal of frustration with the public school system in the United States. I share in that frustration even though I’m not even a by-product of it ( I attended private school for my K-12).

    But you didn’t address some additional key components that make up the poor quality of k-12 in America today. For one thing, many public schools are starved for funds. Aside from teachers not getting paid a reasonable salary, many of the schools themselves suffer from deterioration, including classroom and building decay. In addition, look at the vast disparity between rich and poor in the United States and see how that is reflected in the funding of our public schools in every state. Some states have larger budgets devoted to public schooling, others are cash-starved and the amount of money paying for public schooling is a mere pittance!

    You’re very harsh on teachers. Yes, you may have a great husband, who’s both a loving father and a superlative teacher because he actually gets his kids to THINK, as you put it. But as you mentioned, too many teachers are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time disciplining their students because these kids come from homes where there is NO discipline.

    I spent time in a public school in the 8th grade a number of years ago, as I once considered teaching as a vocation. I watched and observed a singular adult being forced to constantly manage and discipline an entire classroom (some 30+ kids). Let me tell you, it was not pleasant, not fun (for me), and rapidly dissuaded me from teaching as a profession.

    But here’s the REAL KICKER! Read on!

    During a break in the classroom, I got the opportunity to talk to some of these 8th graders. They were curious what exactly my role was in the classroom even though the teacher had already said that I was here to observe. So one of the kids I approached, ( a 12 year old black girl) point blank asked me: Why are you here?

    My response: I’m considering teaching for a living.

    Follow-up question from the girl: Why do you want to teach?

    My answer: Because I’m interested in helping kids to learn, think, and become productive individuals.

    Follow-up question from girl: Why do you want to waste your time doing that? Why don’t you go into computers or something? That’s where the money is at!

    And there you have it. I was flummoxed to say the least!

    I wouldn’t say these kids who appear to be “underachievers” don’t have much desire to achieve anything, as you put it. I’d say some of these kids are actually incredibly SMART, much smarter than adults give them credit for. And if anything, their understanding of the purpose of schooling is to understand how to make money! You start approaching kids from this viewpoint, saying, “I’m here to help you learn how to make money” and you might find yourself surprised at how eager some of these kids begin to shut-up and listen to you.

    It’s the fault of PARENTS and the fault of SOCIETY for not investing in these smart minds at the start and making them realize that the purpose of schooling is to help prepare you to SURVIVE in the world and without quality SCHOOLING you will suffer and experience great difficulty in finding gainful employment. But that’s not all. These kids have to learn how to socialize and work with others. Just to find and secure a job is one thing. How you work with others will also define exactly how long you last in the working world. I’m digressing but I think the amount of stress placed upon teachers to get kids to appreciate why they are in school and why they are taking classes sometimes is just too much of a burden to bare given how poorly the entire public school system is funded and structured. And because too many parents are FAILING their own children!

    Parents MUST do a better job at disciplining their kids so teachers can spend more time on actually teaching their kids how to learn and think critically.

    You make some pointed attacks on liberal arts education. I’m a product of liberal arts and I did major in political science. And a degree in political science, in and of itself, is worthless, in the sense of helping you to find a job. I found that out and for a time, hated my alma mater because I graduated right at the time when a college degree did indeed become worthless. I thought that an employer would look upon my BA as something worthy of respect. No way. My degree didn’t matter at all to the employer.

    I was unemployed for a long time upon my college graduation and frankly, questioned the very foundation and purpose of both my schooling and my education! And I know I’m not the only one!

    However, what a liberal arts education DOES do, is exactly what you want more kids to be able to do at a much younger age. And that’s to think critically, intelligently, and be able to put forth arguments and be able to defend those arguments. And this is what a good liberal arts education should foster in every individual. I’d argue, if anything, a good liberal arts education should be integrated into the 9 -12th grades. And by the time you graduate high school, you should have the equivalent of a college liberal arts education already!

    I will give, if Tim allows it, a thorough review of Waiting for Superman, once I’ve seen the picture. But from what I’ve already read about it, Guggenheim bashes teacher unions and I don’t think solving the “education” crisis in the United States will be so easily solved as to simply dismantle a union.

    We shall see.

  52. I know it’s not really on the point, but bullying in schools is also a huge problem – not only in the US, but worldwide. It really destroys a learning environment. Recommended book on this topic: “Handling Bullying”.

  53. Hey Tim,

    There are two big budget education movies coming out this year.

    I tend to agree with those who take a critical look at “Waiting for Superman,” and worry that it paints a misleading picture of the US education systems and its problems. That said, it is a movie worth seeing; however, given the contents of your blog, I’m surprised you haven’t picked up on the other education movie, the “Race to Nowhere,” instead.

    Given your interest in time management, it should be right up your alley.

    1. Thanks. I’ve seen the trailer. I think we need students who can cope with pressure, so my feeling is a bit different. I don’t think handling kids with kid gloves and a meritocracy prepares them well for real-world interaction, whether jobs or any natural environment where you need to compete and be good at addressing conflict. Holding kids to a high standard is, in most cases, a good thing, IMHO. I’d suggest seeing the doc “2 Million Minutes”, which shows Indian and Chinese students, who make our hardest working high schoolers look like slackers. One Romanian friend of mine recently said “You know what I studied in a math masters here in the US? What we did in high school in Romania.” Yikes.

      1. Hey again Tim.

        I too have an MS in mathematics I obtained here in the US. Take a look at my name–I’m from the eastern bloc as well 🙂 so forgive me for saying your Romanian friend was exaggerating somewhat. Compounding the issue is that in the US we lack “specialized” style high schools prevalent in other countries, so you get future artists and future engineers taking the same mathematics courses. As for “2 Million Minutes,” something tells me those Indian and Chinese kids would be doing a lot more slacking if they had the option to… they don’t, and that’s a powerful motivator.

        I agree with you, completely, that high expectations are good. But you’re in the Bay, check out the students at Stanford or Berkeley. As an MIT professor and a friend wryly remarked, most of our elite students “are fantastic at being students; it’s too bad they’ll actually have to do something in the future.” The concern isn’t that we’re working the students too hard. It’s that we’re wasting their time.



  54. Tim,

    I am so glad you are supporting this film. I know when we chatted briefly I could see that fixing the US school system was and is a huge passion of yours and seems to be your next big move. It was also a bold move to put that idea out there in your TED talk. Bravo.

    What I think you have done for your readers over the last several years is open up a part of each of us to challenge – to decide to not live a life of mediocrity.

    Above all of the productivity tips and life hacks you write and talk about (which I think are fabulous), you above all are an expert student; a man who is dedicated to getting things right, to finding more efficient ways of doing things and to not be satisfied with ‘mystery.’

    The best students can teach us the most about learning anything. To a great teacher best of luck with the new book.