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.

Posted on: October 1, 2009.

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76 comments on “Tonight: 400 Free Tickets to "Waiting for Superman"

  1. 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).


  2. 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.


  3. 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.


  4. 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


  5. 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.


  6. @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.


  7. 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.


  8. 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”.


  9. 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.


    • 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.


      • 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.



  10. 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.