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Fighting the Education Blob


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In Won’t Back Down, even liberals learn to fight the teachers’ union.

John Fund




Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Won’t Back Down


School reformers who want to change the debate over how to fix America’s public schools are successfully using a new weapon: cinema.


First came The Cartel, a 2009 documentary by former Bloomberg Television reporter Bob Bowdon. Turning a lens on New Jersey’s education system, he demonstrated how urban schools often continue to fail no matter how much money taxpayers throw at them. Then 2010 gave us Waiting for Superman, an emotionally powerful documentary by the liberal director of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. It followed several students who hoped to escape bad public schools by applying for a lottery that awarded a few scarce places in an independent charter school.


Now, this Friday will see the premiere of Walden Media’s Won’t Back Down, a feature-length film starring Academy Award nominees Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a teacher-parent duo who try to take over an abysmally failing public school in Pittsburgh. At a preview screening I attended, the film drew a standing ovation for its depiction of exactly how difficult it is for parents to fight the system.


But critics are also out in force. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has written an open letter attacking the film. “The movie resorts to falsehoods and anti-union stereotypes,” she writes. “[it] contains several egregiously misleading scenes with the sole purpose of undermining people’s confidence in public education, public school teachers and teachers unions.”





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