Friends Don't Let Friends Get Fooled by "Won't Back Down": 5 Reasons Why

Posted on: Friday September 28th, 2012

5 Things You Should Know About the "Parent Trigger" Film
and the Real Parents Who Won't Back Down

Won't Back DownGuess what the OTL Campaign won't be doing this weekend? That's right, we will not be taking our friends to see the premiere of Won't Back Down.

The new film, which chronicles the fictional parent takeover of an underperforming school in Pittsburgh, is the latest creation of Walden Media, the same production firm responsible for Waiting for Superman.

Like Waiting for Superman, Won't Back Down's true corporate message hides behind a cascade of swelling music, ham-fisted dialogue, and cartoonish villains. The new film purports that by empowering parents through a "Parent Trigger" law to take over their schools, fire staff and turn public schools into privately managed charter schools, all the woes of our nation's education system can be solved, all children will succeed, and the world will be a better place and a beacon of free-market magic.

We don't agree with one iota of this "privatization equals a utopian education system" business. So here are 5 things you should know about the film, Parent Trigger laws, and the folks who promote them. 

 

1. Parent Trigger laws have nothing to do with parent empowerment and everything to do with privatization.

The fictional Parent Trigger law in Won't Back Down is based on very real legislation being pushed in states across the country, which, in turn, is based on model legislation from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The entire debate surrounding these bills is focused on parents turning a public school into a privately managed charter school.
(Notice how parents taking over a charter school and making it a public school is never presented as an option. Privatization is a one-way street for ALEC.)

2. No one has actually completed a Parent Trigger to turn a public school into a charter.

Parents in two school districts, both in CA, have tried and failed. In the Compton Unified School District, courts threw out a parent petition to turn one school into a charter. The group who facilitated the signature collection, Parent Revolution, is funded by a charter school operator. (We're sure it's a coincidence.) In the Adelanto School District, a similar petition has become mired in a lawsuit over the rescinded signatures of parents who say they were misled about the nature of the petition they signed. Given the Parent Trigger's track record so far, Won't Back Down is fictional in more ways than one.

3. Charters aren't a cure all, but they're presented as such.

Won't Back Down and proponents of Parent Trigger laws want you to believe that charter schools are the shining future of America's education system. In truth, charters only educate roughly 4% of American students, and studies have shown that most charter schools don't perform any better than their public school counterparts. Moreover, they're less accountable and use selective enrollment practices or school policies that push struggling students out of the classroom. Charters, on the whole, don't represent the systemic change we need to ensure all students have an opportunity to learn, not just a tiny fraction.

4. Unions have a track record of working with communities to improve schools.

As Won't Back Down would have it, failing schools are the result of lazy teachers, bureaucracy and teachers unions. But as the recent teachers strike in Chicago shows, unions are fighting alongside students, parents and community members for the resources they need to teach and for their students to learn. The unconscionable teacher- and union-bashing in the film will weaken, not strengthen our schools, and is a distraction from solving the real problems of inequitable resources in our education system.

5. Films like Won't Back Down and Waiting for Superman are the work of corporations with privatization agendas.

Walden Media is owned by conservative billionaire investor Philip Anschutz, who funds ALEC and some of its members on the Education Task Force. Here's a longer analysis of the film's corporate backers, including the film's distributor, 20th Century Fox, which has ties to, you guessed it, big money with an interest in education privatization.

Learn more:

For more analysis of the facts and myths about Won't Back Down:

Analysis from the Center for Media and Democracy
Fact Sheet from Parents Across America
• A blistering film review from The Nation's Dana Goldstein
• An equally scathing review from The Star Tribune

And so we leave this on a high note, here's the inspiring story of the real parents who won't back down, and who instead held a protest at the red carpet world premier of Won't Back Down on September 23rd.

Won't Back Down

Read more of their story here!

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