October 1, 2012
-- by Dave Johnson
Get the word out. The movie Won't Back Down is another propaganda product of the corporate/conservative machine, put in theaters to get you to support union busting and school privatization.
Over at the Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch, Mary Bottari writes in 'Won't Back Down' Film Pushes ALEC Parent Trigger Proposal, (please go read the whole thing),
Well-funded advocates of privatizing the nation's education system are employing a new strategy this fall to enlist support for the cause. The emotionally engaging Hollywood film "Won't Back Down" -- set for release September 28 -- portrays so-called "Parent Trigger" laws as an effective mechanism for transforming underperforming public schools. But the film's distortion of the facts prompts a closer examination of its funders and backers and a closer look at those promoting Parent Trigger as a cure for what ails the American education system.
While Parent Trigger was first promoted by a small charter school operator in California, it was taken up and launched into hyperdrive by two controversial right-wing organizations: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute.
So why are we getting a major motion picture, widely distributed, that pushes a right-wing agenda? More on this from Mary, (again, there is much more at the link, including links embedded in what I have here) (emphasis added, for emphasis)
Philip Anschutz, Right-Wing Billionaire, Owns Production Company
"Won't Back Down," is a production of Walden Media, owned by billionaire investor and right-wing extremist Philip Anschutz. Anschutz participates in the Koch brothers' secretive political strategy summits and funds David Koch's Americans for Prosperity group, which backed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's union busting proposal and is working to defeat Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates across the country.
Anschutz bankrolls ALEC and ALEC member groups. In 2010, The Anschutz Foundation, gave ALEC $10,000 and his Union Pacific firm was an ALEC sponsor the following year. The Foundation funded three ALEC members who sat on the ALEC Education Task Force which approved the Parent Trigger Proposal: The Independence Institute, Center for Education Reform, and Pacific Research Institute.
Anschutz has also supported the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which backs legislation designed to cripple unions; the Discovery Institute, which seeks to get creation "science" accepted in public schools; and the Mission America Foundation, whose president considers homosexuality to be a "deviance." He also owns the conservative magazine, the Weekly Standard.
Walden Media was one of the producers of the pro-charter documentary film "Waiting for 'Superman'." This film was criticized by Diane Ravitch as propaganda and as "a powerful weapon on behalf of those championing the 'free market' and privatization."
Rupert Murdoch, Media Mogul and Owner of Education Testing Company, Distributes Film
The film is being distributed by 20th Century Fox, owned by News Corp. and media mogul Rupert Murdock. News Corp. owns Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. Murdoch formerly owned the British newspaper News of the World, which imploded once it was revealed that reporters hacked into the cell phones of the family of a murdered child, as well as the cell phones of the royal family, politicians and celebrities. The paper's top editors and reporters were arrested although Murdoch himself has not been charged.
As CMD previously reported, News Corp. has been a member of both ALEC's Education Task Force and Communications and Technology Task Force. Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore, is an ALEC "scholar" and both the Wall Street Journal and Fox News have gone to bat for ALEC as member corporations began to flee earlier this year. What is less well known is that News Corp. owns Wireless Generation, a for-profit online education, software, and testing corporation, acquiring it in 2010 for $360 million. Wireless Generation is also an ALEC member. Apparently, Murdoch was anxious to get a piece of the nation's education system, which he describes as a "500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed." News Corp's senior Vice President in charge of its education division is none other than former Chancellor of New York City Schools, Joel Klein, who promoted a corporatist model of education reform.
The conservative machine is on it. Today, the Heritage Foundation's "Morning Bell" is pushing the film, with Morning Bell: Hollywood Steps Up in “Won’t Back Down”,
A new movie opens in theaters today that couldn’t be more timely. The school year is hitting its stride, and the teachers union in Chicago just captured the national spotlight by strong-arming that city to meet its demands—at the expense of students and taxpayers.
... the message of Won’t Back Down is one of empowering parents. In the film, parents are attempting to “take over” the school, referring to a type of law called a parent trigger law. Seven states have a version of this law, which gives parents the power to intervene in failing schools. If a majority of parents in a school want to reform it, these laws give them options, often including converting the school into a charter school and replacing school staff.
Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers warns, (from Randi Weingarten: Right-wing agenda drives movie on education at The Cap Times),
The film features the union leader sharing a quote that anti-public education ideologues and right-wing politicians often attribute to former AFT president Albert Shanker: “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.” Despite the frequency with which corporate interests claim Shanker said this, a review of news reports, speeches, and interviews with Shanker’s aides and biographers, and even an analysis by the Washington Post, failed to find any person or report that could corroborate the statement.
This is not the only time the movie resorts to falsehoods and anti-union stereotypes. Viola Davis’ character tells other teachers that the new school they create cannot be unionized because the union would restrict their ability to implement reforms that help kids. This is false — unions are democratic organizations made up of individual educators, and collective bargaining is the process by which individuals come together to make things better. Many examples demonstrate that far from blocking reform efforts, unions fight for the things children need to thrive in school, like safe classrooms and smaller class sizes. And unions empower educators to win the tools and voice they need to help children.
Half of all teachers in the United States do not have collective bargaining contracts. The reality is that the states with the highest union density — states such as Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota — are the states that lead the nation in student achievement.
Sabrina Stevens, writing at AlterNet in Why 'Won't Back Down" doesn't stack up, explains, (the whole thing is an absolute must-read!)
As a former union teacher and present union staff member, what struck me most profoundly while watching Won’t Back Down was the stark disconnect between the way people and schools were characterized in the film and the way they are in the real world.
... In my work, I’ve spent time with hundreds of teachers, mostly in high-poverty schools that get low test scores. From teaching and preparing to teach for hours on end, to providing food, care and inspiration for hurting kids, these are dedicated, hard-working people who routinely go well above and beyond in their work. (A popular joke among teachers hinges on the notion that the hours in your contract aren’t the hours you’ll actually work, but the hours for which the district will begrudgingly pay you. It’s well understood by all that it is literally impossible to get everything done in that time period.)
I personally remember lots of overstuffed rolling tote bags (an especially popular option among teachers who needed to bring work home after school ended) and reusable coffee mugs (popular among us newbies who often worked such long hours we barely saw daylight during the fall and winter months) in the school I worked in. Likewise, the school day itself was often a whirr, with teachers bouncing around among 25, 30 or more students at a time during lessons; moving in and out of meetings, planning and professional development sessions; and making calls and handling other daily logistics during “free” periods.
Yet in the movie, it is repeatedly asserted that the union contract prevents exactly this kind of work from taking place...
Please be warned about this movie, and help to let others know what is going on here.
Posted by Dave Johnson at October 1, 2012 3:14 PM
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