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Sylvia Martinez Headshot

Waiting For Undercover Superman

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In the CBS television show Undercover Boss, a top executive of the week's featured business gets dressed up (or down) and takes on a couple of jobs in their own company. The hotel executive makes beds, the restaurant chain mogul washes dishes, and the amusement park CEO fishes poop out of the swimming pool. Along the way, they chat with employees and find out that they work hard, love their families, and do what's right. Some are struggling with big life problems, some are hoping for a better life, but almost all are good people just trying their best.

The formula plays out week after week. The executive learns that some company rules actually make the work harder instead of easier, they hear wise words from young and old, find out people don't make enough money, and are horrified to learn that some don't have proper medical care. Finally, they realize that they should spend more time with their own families.

After a few days, the big boss takes off the disguise and goes back to the office to meet with the other executives. The startling news is revealed: people are hurting out there and we need to do better for our folks.

Here's where the catch comes. Do the executives increase pay and improve working conditions for all? No, that would cost actual money! Instead, they wave a magic wand and give prizes to the handful of lucky employees who happened to appear on the show. They hand out a raise here, a scholarship there, a vacation, or some time off. An executive command is made to "look into" fixing some broken process that was revealed during the show.

The love fest continues. Hilarity ensues as employees are brought to headquarters to see the video footage of the boss getting dirty and messing up menial tasks. This quickly transitions to camaraderie as everyone sees that the boss is a "real person." The boss gives a teary speech about how much the company means to them and that they're a family. Hugs all around.

In the hour of free publicity, the company never actually has to do anything to make working conditions better in any permanent way or extend new benefits to all employees. Quite the cheap public relations coup!

The recently released movie, Waiting for Superman is simply Undercover Boss for schools. Waiting for Superman is a tribute to the richest people in America waving their magic money wand to say which lucky children should get a good education.

Famous musicians come and play a concert at one school, while across the United States schools cut art and music. If you win a contest or find a donor, you can have science equipment, but that's a big if. We watch as children and parents dissolve in tears as their dream of going to a good school is snatched away. The magic wand descends and some families win -- while the rest lose.

Pointing out that schools are not what they should be should be a call to fix ALL schools, and teach ALL children, not a few lucky lottery winners.