Sputnik: Won’t Back Down – Union-bashing goes Hollywood

Sputnik - Advancing Education through Innovation and Evidence

At the recent Education Nation meetings, I saw the opening of “Won’t Back Down.” If you’ve seen the movie or the reviews, you’ll know that it’s about a plucky parent, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who organizes parents and teachers in a terrible school to invoke a “parent trigger” law to take over the school. The movie is controversial in large part because it presents the teachers’ union, which tries to prevent the takeover, as 100 percent evil, in a time when teachers and their unions are very much under assault.

The movie does a good job of painting viewers into an emotional corner. Gyllenhaal’s second-grade daughter is not learning to read, and her incompetent, nearly comatose teacher (and her corrupt principal and uncaring district) do nothing to solve the problem, or even pretend to care. The mom, working two jobs with little money, does her best to change her daughter to a better class, then a better school, and finally tries and fails to get her into a wonderful-sounding charter school. Given all of this, what’s a mother to do?

In the movie version (this is not true in real life), the approval of half of the school’s teachers is needed to invoke the parent trigger. The mom teams up with a great teacher, played by Viola Davis. If you’ve seen any David vs. Goliath movie, you can predict the rest, except that it’s the union, not the school administration that is cast as Goliath. This is set up by the artificial device of making teacher approval a requirement for parent trigger. (This isn’t otherwise necessary since the school administration does a sufficient job of playing Goliath).

Continue reading this post at Education Week

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