"Don't label a school as failing one day and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test...You didn't devote your lives to testing. You devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do." -- Candidate Barack Obama, Summer 2007

"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

Friday, September 28, 2012

Won't Back Down - Infomercial

Yesterday, in 2012 Medley #18, I had a section about Won't Back Down, the movie which claims to be "based on something true." Of course, we know that it's actually based on nothing but the dreams of the corporate charter industry.

There hasn't been a parent trigger-based transfer of a school from public control to corporate charter control. There shouldn't be either, because, as much as "reformers" may want you to believe it, parents don't own public schools. The public owns public schools and a group of citizens, no matter how involved they are in a public institution, shouldn't have the right to sell that institution to a private enterprise. A little league group, for example, can't sell the public park in which they play simply because they use the park. I believe parents should be closely involved in their children's education, but that's not what the parent trigger laws provide for.

In yesterday's blog post I referenced a few locations which dealt with the new movie, Won't Back Down.
There's more, though. As the movie begins to settle in as this week's main topic on the edublogosphere, more and more information and commentary is being produced.

REACTION

This morning, for example, Anthony Cody posted Reaction to "Won't Back Down" Shows Critics Have Learned Something which compares the reaction to Won't Back Down to the reaction to Waiting for Superman.
Reviewers were mostly favorable towards "Waiting For Superman." The web site Rotten Tomatoes aggregates reviews, and also collects feedback from ordinary folks who have seen the movies. "Waiting For Superman" got an overall rating of 89%, with an audience score that was 84% positive.

Flash forward two years, and witness the release this month of "Won't Back Down," another movie heavily financed and promoted by education "reformers," with a similar message that teacher unions are obstacles to school improvement. This time the reaction has been decidedly different. The Rotten Tomatoes site indicates a reviewer score of only 35% so far, in spite of efforts by staffers at Students First to boost the score.
Both movies are "reformer" propaganda focusing on the evils of teachers unions, the failure of public education and the need to fire "bad teachers." Waiting for Superman was a documentary which failed in this task, so the moneybags funding "education reform" decided a heart-pumping, good vs. evil, moms-beat-the-system, fictional movie might work better.
Many reviewers are taking issue with the use of an emotionally loaded story to push a particular political agenda, one which demonizes teacher unions and promotes charter* schools. But the movie is provoking some deeper discussions as well. Many reviewers are pointing out the source of funding for the film, and the strong political agenda that comes with it.

The Chamber of Commerce is seeking to gain access to the $500 billion spent on education each year for profit-making corporations. They characterize our system of democratically controlled, community-based public education as some sort of "government monopoly," in order to undermine support for public schools and build support for free-market alternatives.
Cody is not 100% correct when he defines public education as being a "democratically controlled, community-based" system. That's partly true, of course, but in some places, New York City and Chicago, for example, public education is controlled by the mayor who appoints the school board. I suppose that mayors, being elected (at least for the time being) officials, could be described as "democratically controlled," but school boards in such places are controlled by cronyism and political contributions. His point however, is well taken. Public education is not a government monopoly any more than public libraries are...or police departments...or fire departments. Such public institutions are services provided by the government under public control. There might be some extreme anti-government-types who would like to see all public services moved to private, corporate hands, but for most people, the thought of "charter" police and fire departments is out of the question.

INFOMERCIALS

In School reform’s propaganda flick, on Salon.com, Alexander Zaitchik writes,
[The film's production company], Walden Media, is linked at the highest levels to the real-world adult alliance of corporate and far-right ideological interest groups that constitutes the so-called education reform movement, more accurately described as the education privatization movement.
It is also
an educational content company with a commercial interest in expanding private-sector access to American K-12 education, or what Rupert Murdoch, Walden’s distribution partner on “Won’t Back Down,” lip-lickingly calls “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”
In other words, Won't Back Down is a feature film length advertisement for the corporate takeover of public education. It's an infomercial, if you will, using highly paid actors and featuring "facts" adjusted by the corporate interests for public consumption. There's nothing wrong with infomercials, of course, but TV networks generally require a disclaimer, such as, "the following program is a paid advertisement." It would have been nice if Walden Media provided the same for its "infomercials" Waiting for Superman and Won't Back Down.

Zaitchik is correct that Walden Media is run by "far-right ideological interest groups" but it's important to take note of the beginning of his sentence..."the real-world adult alliance of corporate and..." That alliance includes both of America's major political parties and most of it's major media outlets.

LINKS

Finally,

  • The United Church of Christ's web site has an article entitled, Films that Attack Public Education. The site discusses the films, has links to supporters, financial sources, ALEC involvement, commentary and reviews. It's worth a look.
  • Check out Bill Moyers Exposes the Stranglehold the Corporate & Right-Wing Alliance Has on Our Democracy. Moyers exposes ALEC.
  • NPR, formerly a relatively unbiased news source, has fallen, too. The influx of money from the Walton and Gates foundations has led to things like Scott Simon's interview of Arne Duncan about the Chicago Teachers strike. Well informed readers know that money was among the least important items under contention and in fact, the strike started even after the money issues had been agreed upon. Simon, however, focused only on teachers pay. Nothing about lack of art or music education. Nothing about lack of libraries and world language teachers. Nothing about schools as sweatshops with leaky roofs. The truth gets lost during political campaigns.
  • The nation's teachers unions are falling into line as well -- notice Dennis Van Roekel, president of NEA, following Arne Duncan around on a bus tour touting President Obama's education platform, seemingly without regard to the damage that Race to the Top has done to America's public schools.


*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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