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Most documentaries about education - from Frederick Wiseman's High School (1968) to Bill Moyers' Children in America's Schools (1996) - paint a similarly grim picture. All these films hold out the prospect that change is possible if society is willing to honestly confront the social, economic, and bureaucratic conditions that have made public education less effective than it could and should be.In contrast, the two most recent high-profile films about public education -- the documentary Waiting for Superman (2010) and Hollywood's Won't Back Down (2012), starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis -- portray our public schools as beyond reform and redemption.
In an essay in the New York Review of Books, educational historian Diane Ravitch summarized the major themes of Waiting for Superman. Test scores are low because there are so many bad teachers, whose jobs are protected by powerful unions.
This mantra, which could also apply to Won't Back Down, includes the following: "American public education is a failed enterprise. Students drop out because the schools fail them, but they could accomplish practically anything if they were saved from bad teachers.
Not surprisingly, the film's villain is Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
One of its heroes is Geoffrey Canada, charismatic founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, which has raised millions of dollars from business, foundations and government to lavishly fund charter schools and social services in a small part of that New York neighborhood.
Both were produced by Walden Media, which is owned by Phil Anschutz, a right-wing businessman who owns two of the nation's premier conservative publications (the Weekly Standard and the Washington Examiner) and whose foundation has donated $210,000 to the antiunion National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund.
Anschutz is also a backer of Americans for Prosperity, the political war chest founded by the right-wing Koch brothers and has donated to Wisconsin Gov.
In 2012, the world got "Won't Back Down." It was another Hollywood hype propaganda for charter schools. By Peter Dreier, Truthout | Op-Ed Review of “Go Public,” with a commentary about “Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down.” Ever since the emergence of talking pictures, schools have been a major subject of both Hollywood movies and documentary films.
But "Won't Back Down" failed at the box office even more so than "Waiting for Superman" (which got most of its Chicago audiences because millionaires bankrolled Stand for Children to fill buses with poor black people to go to the show and then participate in "discussion groups" on behalf of privatization. One consistent theme of Hollywood portrayals of schools -- from Blackboard Jungle (1955), Up the Down Staircase (1967) and Stand and Deliver (1988) to Mr.
The film demonizes teachers' unions as the destroyer of public schools, while celebrating charters as the panacea for what ails American education.
It reduces most teachers and their union leaders to one-dimensional, cartoon-like figures.