Posts Tagged ‘propaganda’

“Grass Roots” Educators4Excellence Make $250,000 Commercial

February 19, 2013

You know there is something seriously wrong with any teacher evaluation plan that is pined for by the likes of the minuscule and despicable Educators 4 Excellence, a whole cloth creation of Bill Gates, Democrats for Education Reform and other union busting privatizers lusting to get their hands on our public school system and remake it in their own image.      You know there is something even more wrong with the thinking of the United Federation of Teachers who, with very minor differences, were willing to sign on to the same plan before Mayor Mike Bloomberg “torpedoed “ it at the 11th hour over the UFT’s insistence that this radical experiment in union suicide and  systematic destruction of teachers have a two year sunset clause. ( Like all ideas favored by Bloomberg, Bloomberg believed the experiment should  go on in perpetuity: a goal he is apparently seeking for all of the  insane ideas that blossom in his fertile head  in his final 10 months of power. )

Now here we are some six or so weeks later and Governor Andrew “I am the government”   “ Cuomo is poised, somehow, to pass legislation allowing  New York State Commissioner John King the right to  impose his own evaluation plan, union  contacts, and laws be damned, if the existing plan is  not ratified.

This is what passes for binding arbitration in our time.

Inexplicably, my union, the UFT,  seems to be quietly fine with that arrangement.  Much more loudly, E4E is demanding precisely that, and the New York Post, which can be seen as the house organ of E4E, is as ever happy to spread their word.  (Note: As Commissioner King taught for a mere three years before being handed power over education in New York State,  he may well feel an affinity for the leaders of E4E and they for him. )

A couple of  months ago, E4E held something purporting to be a rally at City Hall Park in favor of the wretched plan.   The affair was darkly amusing in its pathos, what with the E4Eer’s chanting idiocies in their billionaire bought green beanies and going on and on about how excellent they were.  “I am not satisfactory!  I am excellent” was a cringe inducing fave.

One after the other they barked on about how they craved feedback from their administrators, all but admitting to being as helpless as infants in their classrooms without an assistant principal telling them what to do and how to do it.

And  yet these were the very same adults who  were demanding the right to influence state educational policy and radically rewrite or outright remove the teacher protections that their predecessors  risked their careers to obtain for them.

A wee bit of a contradiction there, I’d say.  But what the hey!

There were ignorant if almost passionate lamentations  about using the 250 million dollars of Race to the Top extortion money to buy laptops for their students,  as if one dime of the tainted loot was ever going near a   class room and not going straight to consultants and test makers. I attended the rally (and wrote of it in an earlier post) and spoke to some of the beanie wearing crew, all of whom were clueless, some of whom were very pleasantly so.   This morning I  was mailed the on line version of E4E latest effort and — lo and be hold! — there are the same few faces in the video as at their tiny rally spouting the same lines, albeit  it, in  somewhat gentler and infinitely  more somber, even funereal tones.    Alas, what else can you do when your budget is in the millions but your membership is in the hundreds but trot out and re cycle the same people over and over. Indeed, one of them is the very lady who was handed a platform by the NY Daily News on January 3.

The Post does again what it has done since the creation of  E4E , even repeating the nonsense about E4E  forming spontaneously, like Athena out of Zeus’s head, from a couple of frustrated Bronx teachers — neither of whom of is still teaching, but rather living large on their corporate sponsor’s welfare  — in a in a lonely February kitchen under a dim bulb with a sad minor scale violin solo playing in the distance.

( OK, I made up the part about the dim light bulb and the violin but  they made up the bullshit about the kitchen.  You can rest assured, like so much of corporate education reform schemes,  the idea for  this repugnant organization was  vomited  up ages ago in a well lit boardroom. )

A mere two or three years later and here’s E4E with a snazzy midtown office, a branch in LA and   no less than a quarter of a million dollars to spend on a commercial!

My favorite line from the Post’s puff piece?  “The nonprofit E4E has drawn criticism for relying in part on funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Carnegie foundations.”

“In part.”   That’s a good one.

My bet is that there has not been a single dollar raised by teachers for this egregious organization.

And yet here again is E4E, possessors of zero credibility, with less than 1 % of NYC teacher as members again presented as if it is a legitimate organization and an “independent” voice of real educators.

I know of no other group that so completely embodies the fraudulence and deceit of corporate education reform and the willing complicity  of the media to aid in such fraud and deceit as E4E.  Think about it.  A quarter of a million dollars for an ad for a group that was “hatched in a kitchen” three years ago.  There is a story here.  It is the story of media complicity with insidious corporate reformers.  And how that story  goes on and on and on.

And there is another story here, one even darker in its way that the fraudulence of E4E.

And that story is this:  how did it happen that a group like E4E, that was created by billionaire  privatizers  for the sole purpose of   stripping  teachers of their rights,  and an organization like the UFT, that was created by teachers to  grant them rights and protect their rights wind up agreeing to essentially the same teacher evaluation plan ?


My question:  on what level of Dante’s hell are we trapped in and how the hell do we get out dignified and alive?

We have reached the hour when everything must change or we will enter decades of data based, billionaire orchestrated, illuminated darkness.

Independent teachers group demands Albany eval plan

  • By ERIK KRISS, Bureau Chief
  • Last Updated: 3:07 AM, February 19, 2013
  • Posted: 1:55 AM, February 19, 2013

ALBANY — A group of reform-minded city teachers is taking to the airwaves today to demand the state impose a teacher-evaluation system on the Big Apple soon, The Post has learned.

Educators 4 Excellence plans to flood network and cable TV stations in the city with a 30-second ad calling on Albany to impose an evaluation system as soon as possible in the face of an impasse between Mayor Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers.

Gov. Cuomo will introduce legislation this week for a state-imposed system — but the measure could give the city and UFT until Sept. 17 to agree on their own plan before it takes effect.

But that could push implementation of any teacher-evaluation plan into the 2014-15 school year, E4E says.

“It will be incredibly difficult to train teachers and principals on a teacher-evaluation system that isn’t finished until the beginning of the [next] school year,” E4E executive director Jonathan Schleifer told The Post yesterday.

“We need a system put in place soon,” he said, adding that there is “no local deal in sight.”

The ad buy is expected to exceed $250,000 and may run longer than a week, organizers said.

It’s aimed at Cuomo, who faces his own deadline this week to amend his state budget proposal by adding his mandatory teacher-evaluation plan.

State lawmakers are expected to approve the budget for the state fiscal year that begins April 1 by the end of March.

E4E says it wants evaluations to provide feedback to teachers based on multiple observations, “student growth data” and student surveys, among other factors.

With school out for winter break, E4E members also plan to fan out across the city today to collect petition signatures calling for a state evaluation system to take effect as soon as possible.

“A meaningful evaluation system will tell me what’s working — and help me be better for my students,” Queens seventh-grade mathematics teacher Jemal Graham says in the ad.

“With feedback and support, I will be a stronger teacher for my students,” adds Rafael Gondim, a math teacher in Queens.

The city already lost $250 million in state aid by missing a Jan. 17 deadline for an evaluation plan that must be agreed to by the UFT.

It stands to forfeit another $224 million if the sides miss the September deadline.

“We can’t afford any more empty promises and empty programs,” Gondim says, with Bronx special-education teacher Susan Keyock adding, “Our students deserve better.”

The nonprofit E4E has drawn criticism for relying in part on funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Carnegie foundations.

A UFT spokesman questioned how “a supposedly grass-roots teacher organization with limited membership and resources can afford an ad campaign — unless of course the campaign is being funded by outside sources,” adding that the union hopes the state facilitates “binding arbitration” in the absence of a negotiated settlement.

Cuomo’s office had no comment and a spokesman for Bloomberg did not return a request for comment.

E4E was hatched about three years ago by several Bronx teachers frustrated over the lack of teacher input on school reforms. It has also advocated for merit pay and stronger tenure requirements, and opened a Los Angeles chapter in late 2011.

The teacher-quality and school-choice advocacy group StudentsFirstNY ponied up over half a million dollars in December for a citywide TV and social-media ad campaign to pressure the city and UFT to reach an agreement before the January deadline.

Trouble viewing this email? You can View this Message Online

Educators 4 Excellence: An Independent Voice for Teachers

Dear Karl,Good morning.I wanted you to be the first to know. As millions of New Yorkers watch TV today they are going to see myself and two other E4E-NY teachers calling on Albany to act immediately and deliver a meaningful evaluation and support system for New York City’s teachers.You’ll probably see it during your favorite news and shows this week, but you can also watch the 30-second video here:

This message couldn’t come at a better time – yesterday the NY Post reported that the Governor would give the City and Union until September 17th to try to get a deal. Unfortunately, though we hoped they could work something out before, we’ve seen they haven’t been able to – even when a quarter of a billion dollars for our students was at stake. I remain optimistic, but we need Albany’s leadership to guarantee that we will get the feedback and support we need to help our students.

E4E teachers have been asking for meaningful evaluation and support for two years now and we can’t afford to wait until the start of another new school year. In order for an evaluation system to have a meaningful impact, we need time to implement it thoughtfully by training principals, setting up a feedback loop with teachers, and lining up high-quality professional development to support teachers. No more kicking the can down the road!

The video will be seen by millions of New Yorkers, but our voice is strongest when you join Susan, Rafael, and me. Here are two quick things you can do right now to help share this message:

•    Forward this email to your friends and colleagues.
•    Share the video on Facebook and Twitter


Jemal Graham
Seventh grade math teacher, Queens
E4E-NY School Captain


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© 2012 Educators 4 Excellence

333 West 39th Street, Suite 703, New York, NY 10018About E4E: For far too long,education policy has been created without a critical voice at the table – the voice of reform-minded classroom teachers. Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization, is changing this dynamic by placing the voices of teachers at the forefront of the conversations that shape their classrooms and careers. To learn more,

Right now, educators are working through E4E to drive positive outcomes for students and elevate the teaching profession. Help grow this movement. Please donate today.

The Rich Are Different: Why Won’t Back Down Won’t Back Down

October 10, 2012

Almost a century ago, long before America had produced almost 400 billionaires and political opposition to plutacracy  had degenerated into a slick, sick joke, F. Scott Fiztgerald in a short story entiled “The Rich Boy, ” wrote the following:  “Let me tell you about the very rich.  They are different than you and me.”

I’ll say.  And our generation’s very rich are far richer than Fitzgerald could have possibly imagined.

One example of the difference can be seen in the fact that Won’t Back Down, a movie that suffered the worst opening in box office history for films released in over 2, 500 theaters, will not – as would just about any other film that no one paid to see — be going gentle into that good night.    No way.   Not by a long shot.

But then again, Won’t Back Down is not just any other film that no one paid to see.  It is a film that billionaires paid millions to make in order to help trick people into privatizing our public school system and making it the private property of the billionaires.   This is to be done by parents backing a scam called the Parent Trigger Legislation, itself the creation of the very, very rich as a mechanism to make themselves  even richer still.

The very rich can sometimes be an amusing lot and they like to call this despicable hustle “ community organizing ”  in the same manner that they like to imply or outright declare that they are leading a struggle for civil rights.

This week the billionaire funded phony “education reform” group which shamelessly calls itself Parent Revolution kicked off nothing less than a 32 city tour of Won’t Back Down in order to get down with a little “community organizing.”  The Revolutionaries are flown in from California and put up in five star hotels on the billionaire backer’s dime.  And why not?  The great thing about being a billionaire is that money is essentially meaningless. Spending millions and  millions attempting to deceive people is something akin to us buying a pricy coffee. Not a problem.    And get this: the Parent Revolutionaries and their billionaire backers so love the little people of this country that the tickets on Won’t Back Down’s 32-city tour are free. That’s right.  Free.  Zippo. Zilch.

All that is asked of the lucky viewers is that they hang around afterwards for a post screening “discussion” with “activists” who will try to convince them to join their movement, get free tee shirts and become parent revolutionaries themselves.  Who knows, one might even land a job with the revolutionaries, provided one is “progressive, mission-driven, and results-oriented”, that is.

Here are a few words from the revolutionary  website complete with job offerings and propaganda film shilling:

Organizational Overview
: Parent Revolution is a dynamic and growing non-profit organization whose mission is to transform public education by empowering parents to transform their children’s failing school through community organizing. In its brief history, the organization has garnered national attention for its groundbreaking work conceiving of, passing, and implementing California’s “Parent Trigger” law, which gives parents – for the first time ever – real power to transform their child’s failing school through community organizing. In addition to being featured in almost every national media outlet, our work is now serving as a national model – three additional states have passed their own Parent Trigger laws, and dozens of others are currently considering doing so. We have helped parents at two Southern California schools successfully organize their communities using the Parent Trigger law, and are working with parents at different stages of the organizing process at over a dozen additional schools. In September 2012, a major motion picture about our organization’s work, entitled “Won’t Back Down,” will be released, further raising the profile of our work across the country. Our organization has more than quadrupled in size over the last two years and is continuing a trajectory of rapid growth, due in large part to our successful track record. We have an entrepreneurial, mission-driven culture, setting ambitious goals for all employees and giving them the freedom to creatively meet them with appropriate support and guidance. A successful candidate for a position within our organization will come with an excellent track record and existing skill set as well as a strong desire to work within a progressive, mission-driven, and results-oriented team.

Job Openings

Technology Director

Development Director

Regional Advocacy Director

Organizer (Southern California & Northern California Placements)  “

Wow!  How do you like those apples ?

Being very rich allows you to be able to defy all the boundaries of human decency and hire people to write such drivel. Being very rich allows you the wherewithal to fly people like the Parent Revolutionaries all over the United States so they can convince the poor to back the plans of the very rich in comfort and ease.  Being very rich allows you to make full-length movies that serve purely as a propaganda vehicle for your despicable policies.  Being very rich also allows you to defy the alleged principles of the market place; to twist the arm, so to speak, of “the hidden hand ” that allegedly guides it so that films that bomb can still live and more:  they can go on 32 city tours with an well fed entourage of bullshit specialists trained especially  to prey on the uninformed and the desperate — kind of like a recruiter for a cult.   Above all being very rich allows you to undermine democracy at every turn,  insure its utter impotence in a million ways and still, somehow,  be considered a patriot and a role model.

“We can have democracy in this country,” said Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis,” or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Brandeis, of course, was right. As  Thomas Jefferson was right.  As Mother Jones was right. As Eugene Debs was right.  As Dorothy Day and Ralph Nader and many, many other wise and decent people were right.

One day, hopefully, before we grow so demented  pretzeling  our minds defending indefensible accumulations  of wealth, when we  at last cease genuflecting  before  mediocre minds fueled by gargantuan  egos and obscene fortunes, when we awaken to the rank idiocy and moral cowardice of  applying the principles  of  business  to every human endevor no matter how debasing or degrading or blasphemous,  we might begin to learn a little about what we are meant to be doing here, how we  are meant to treat each other, how it is we become more fully human.

Won’t Back Down: the Latest Volley From the Corporate Reform Industrial Complex ( Hollywood Division )

October 4, 2012



Won’t Back Down   is an extraordinarily manipulative, insidious and consciously misleading film and perhaps the closest thing to naked propaganda made for a general audience since World War II.

Produced by Walden Films, the same people who created the scene -staging anti teacher “documentary”, Waiting for Superman, Won’t Back Down is a   multi-million dollar, star studded commercial for something called the Parent Trigger legislation.  The Parent Trigger is a mechanism created ostensibly   to empower parents by making it preposterously easy for them to turn a public school into a charter school.  (Once a charter school, it is currently impossible to revert back to a public school regardless of how poorly the school performs.)

But,  as one of the major obstacles to parents actually pulling the Parent Trigger are teacher unions, Won’t Back Down is a full-length attack on teacher unions that is nothing less than mendacious and slanderous.  In point of fact, Won’t Back Down is nothing less than a public relations equivalent of a bullet to the union’s brain.

Despite the presence of first-rate actors, the movie as movie is insulting and offensive on every conceivable level.  But that does not mean it will not be effective.  Won’t Back Down is a tearjerker in which the jerked tears are meant not to allow the audience to get in touch with their inner Oprah but to inform political opinions and inspire political actions of a decidedly undemocratic strain.  It is designed to turn parents against teachers by tricking them into believing that the sole reason their child is struggling is because he or she   has   a “bad teacher “;  deceive them into thinking that their  only hope for their children’s future is aligning themselves with union busting privatizing billionaires. Won’t Back Down is also meant to turn teachers against themselves.

Won’t Back Down  is a morality play pitting a fiery but  good working class parent against her daughter’s lousy  or even  evil teachers and their  oppressive   union  which seems somehow to dictate a deadening curriculum, cast  a melancholy cloud over everything  and, most egregiously,  forbids teachers from working with their students after school.  The plot runs as follows: Jamie Fitzgerald (Maggie Gyllenhaal) a feisty Pittsburg single mom with two jobs, rightfully disgusted by the horrific education her dyslectic daughter is receiving in the nightmarish Adams Elementary School, stumbles upon a little used and littler known parent empowerment law strikingly similar to the Parent Trigger.  Desperate to get her daughter the education she deserves, Jamie attempts to enlist both parents and teachers in signing the petition to create a new if utterly undefined school where parents “get a say in what gets taught and how.”   The only certainty is that the school  would be non-union.  At first, scornfully rebuked by both parties, especially the self absorbed and frightfully unlikable  teachers ( save one ),  she is also contemptuously dismissed  by the honchos of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Jamie won’t back down.  She gains a confederate among the teaching staff in Nona Alberts ( Viola Davis)  and soldiers on.    In time – very little time, actually – she  somehow convinces not only the previously reluctant parent body, but, after a night of drinking and Texas Two Stepping, the previously hostile teachers who are magically  transformed and   as happy as dolphins to surrender all   rights and benefits for a school “for teachers who want to teach” and “is about the kids.”  Who could argue with that ?   In a final absurdity, after the Pennsylvania school board, because of a single faulty mathematical equation, turns down Jamie’s petition, Jamie convinces the board to reconsider by revealing that the equation was wrong because, she, like her daughter, is also dyslexic. Somehow this disclosure moves the board to hold a second and public vote.     (Don’t ask.)  In the end ‘because something must be done” the board approves Jamie’s ‘ new school, and there is much rock and roll and weeping for joy in Pittsburgh.  The final scene shows Jamie’s dyslexic daughter Mylia  who  was struggling to read in the film’s grim opening scene, miraculously  reading fluently in a bright beautiful class room filed with happy  and well mannered children.

Roll credits.

All this is absurd, of course, but we would do well to acknowledge that in a nation where the government and the media,  serving a steady diet of insinuations, distortions  and outright lies, were able to convince 70 % of the U.S. population that Saddam Hussein  was personally responsible for the attacks of 9/11, absurdity is  hardly a liability.

Propaganda, effectively produced and disseminated —  and Won’t Back Down is nothing is if not skillful propaganda — is a formidable weapon against any population and that much the more against a frightened, confused and ill served people, which would pretty much sum up most of America at this point.   And it is important to realize that Won’t Back Down is simply the latest volley, an expensive drop in a poisonous sea, in what has to be the most sustained, relentless and well financed public relations campaign against a once honorable profession –  teaching    – in the history of this nation. This campaign — let’s call it the Corporate Reform Industrial Complex —  has been led and bankrolled by the richest and most reactionary forces and individuals in the country – Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, the Koch brothers and others — in league with the leaders of both political parties up to and including Barack Obama. The Complex has been broadcasting its agenda and bulldozing its pernicious whims and notions (standardized tests, value added teacher evaluations and the like) into policy for years now, resulting in no discernable improvement in student achievement even as they have achieved phenomenal success in dumbing down students,  demoralizing teachers, destabilizing communities and helping to line the pockets of   corporate test making companies from coast to coast.  Naturally, the Complex  has received enormous and wholly uncritical assistance  from Time Magazine, Fox News, CNBC, PBS and virtually every other corporate media outfit. Indeed, as  Won’t Back Down, is its  second full-length anti teacher production,   Walden Films can rightfully be called the motion picture division of the Corporate Reform Industrial Complex.

Like all effective propaganda Won’t back Down deals in broad strokes, traffics in heros and villains and aims to bypass rational argument, truth, and nuance, and appeals straight to the emotions. Writer Brian Hill and director Daniel Barnz know how to do this kind of thing, are good at it and leave nothing to chance.  At no point in Won’t Back Down does one hear the words  “charter school” or “privatization” or “billionaire” or “ALEC”   or “union busting.”  There is not hint  of the effects of Obama’s insidious and deliberately destabilizing and astoundingly undemocratic Race to the Top, no mention of ballooning class sizes or idiotic, degrading effects on education systems based increasingly on standardized tests.  You will listen in vain for any  reference to the various Captain Ahab’s – Gates, Broad, DFER  and Co, — who have been allowed to hijack the public school Pequot and sail it in almost any damn direction  they please for  years now, unbeknownst  to the public at large, unaccountable to any one.

What one does hear, again and again are recitations from the catechism of the corporate reformers.  For a special kick in the pants, they often come from the mouths of teachers.

Hence, as if channeling Mike Bloomberg, one hears teacher Breena Harper (Rosie Perez) plaintively inquire, “ What other profession guarantees a job for life after two years? “   (Answer: none, including the teaching profession.)   Echoing one of the holy writs of Teach For America, Jamie dismisses the horrific and myriad realties of poverty with a single pithy and solipsistic declaration: “ I don’t need 10,000 studies about poverty.  I know poverty sucks and my kid can’t read. “  At another moment Jamie dismisses any option other than the trigger by declaring, “The whole system is broken.  It’s dead!”  Even child actors  are  enlisted in the game:  “Hurry, ” says Jamie to her daughter as they rush through the morning streets of Pittsburgh,    ” we’ll be late for school.”  “The school doesn’t  care,” replies the little girl in a line that is meant to enrage every working mother in the audience.

Character after character speak as if they are but ventriloquists for the hidden masters behind the curtain.


All one needs to know about what is wrong with the American public school system and unionized teachers can be easily discerned from the opening scene in which Malia, Jamie’s pretty dyslexic  daughter, stands in the center of a bleak , depressing classroom (all classrooms are bleak  and depressing ) trying and failing to sound out a word on a  filthy blackboard (all blackboards are filthy.) While her classmates openly ridicule the child,  her overweight, miserable excuse for a teacher plays with her cell phone, too lazy and indifferent to even raise her eyes and look at the poor girl.

And it gets worse.  Much worse.   In short order we learn from a fellow teacher (Perez again ) that despite having the lowest test scores in Adam’s Elementary, the union contract demands that  Ms. Cellphone is the school’s highest paid teacher. Hill and Barnz are not finished with Ms. Cellphone, however.  Before the film is over this monster will lock little Malia  in a disgusting broom closet  —  a vicious,  cruel  and  criminal act  for which any teacher in this country would and should lose their  job – for needing to use the bathroom.  Malia is  only freed from her captivity by the unexpected arrival of Jamie.   Does this act lead to Ms. Cellphone  being arrested, led out of   school in handcuffs and pictured on the 6:00 news ?  Hardly. No one other than Jamie even seems to notice. There are no consequences.  Such is life in Hollywood’s version of our public school system. By the films end, long after her colleagues have incomprehensively jettisoned their union in favor of a building a new school that favors  the radical ideas of reading Shakespeare and having field trips

( what on earth were they doing in that school  before hand ? ) , the cruel, criminal Ms. Cellphone remains gainfully employed if the  only teacher from Adams Elementary to stick with the union.  Get the connection? If not, you   are not paying attention.

As the slanderous treatment of teacher unions is not merely central to the political agenda of this preposterous film but to the success of the corporate campaign to hijack and privatize public education, it is impossible to believe that they are the results of lazy research or poor writing or poetic license.   Won’t Back Down is a work that is consciously dishonest, never more so than in its depiction of teacher unions.  Consider the fact that character after character, teachers included, bemoan the ridicules  contractual agreement cited again and again in the film that forbids teachers to stay after school and work with kids.  Consider the fact the union’s reaction to Jamie’s increasingly successful campaign to remake the school is to try and bribe her by paying her child’s tuition to a spectacularly beautiful private school.   Consider how the whole defeated, miserable filthy atmosphere of Adam’s Elementary is somehow the result of the union and its “600 page contract,  ”: a contract that   which puts the interests of teachers ahead of the interests of students, refusing in the sloganeering drone   of Mike Bloomberg and Michelle Rhee and so many other corporate reformers, to “put kids first.  Always.”

In works of fiction, such conceits fall under the rubric of poetic license.  In politics they are called plausible deniability. Won’t Back Down is politics masquerading as poetry.

For a movie ostensibly about education and teachers, other than the grotesque behavior of Ms. Cell Phone, there is precious little teaching depicted.  This is because, like all corporate reformer shills and the corporate reformers themselves, neither Hill nor Barnz has any idea of what they are talking about, any idea of what makes schools function, or any idea of what teaching is.  Thus you get this kind of stuff: A re-energized Ms. Alberts (Viola Davis ) uses the time honored Socratic method to have her students examine a quote from John Adams, after whom the school is named.  The kids respond enthusiastically. For some reason this routine exercise   so impresses the   formally cynical school board official that the official is moved to change her mind about the parent takeover project and then and there decides to back it.  In another scene Jamie (who seems to wander the school as if she is already running it)

comes across a ukulele strumming  younger male teacher who thinks it’s a good idea to have his students, perhaps third graders, two step across the room while reciting snippets from JFK’s bellicose inaugural address.  Jamie agrees with this style of teaching  and responds  to this idiocy  — a stunt that would land a New York City teacher in the Rubber Room  —   by declaring Mr. Ukulele “a good teacher.”

So much for pedagogy.

The Parent Trigger legislature as depicted in the film bears as close a relationship to truth as does Won’t Back Downs treatment of unions:  That is to say, none. Like all of the corporate reform mechanisms, the Parent Trigger is the brainchild of a third party with vested interests in privatizing schools and plugged by a phony grassroots organization funded by billionaires. Unlike the mythology its cynical creators have manufactured,    the Trigger is the labor, not of a handful of grassroots parents rising up to demand better schools for their kids but rather the brainchild of one Ben Austin, a policy consultant for a charter school organization in Los Angeles.

The Trigger mandates that a school be closed, its staff fired and the building   turned over to a charter school corporation if 51% of parents can be persuaded to sign a petition.  It is a reckless, wildly undemocratic and foolish idea and one that would have died on the vine if it were truly the fruit of the grass roots movement its adherents claim it to be. It is right wing fomented mob rule posturing as the essence of  direct democracy. The trigger   would have been strangled to death if it actually led to anything vaguely approximating parental empowerment in schools which is among the last things Corporate Education Industrial Complex wants or would ever allow.

Austin went on to form the organization Parent Revolution whose sole reason for existence is to promote the Parent Trigger,  across the USA of A.

Parent Revolution, ostensibly   an organization built to empower parents, is   another in a seemingly endless line of billionaire backed phony grass roots front groups that help do the dirty work — especially the dividing and conquering — necessary for the absolute triumph of the Corporate Reform Industrial Complex.  The parent revolutionaries of Parent Revolution are bankrolled by  some of the most reactionary entities in America, including the Walton Family Foundation, the Heartland Institute and the extremely secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that is always busy helping corporate America propose and   draft legislation for states across the country, all of them salivating over the privatization of the public school  system.

As yet the Trigger has only been implemented twice, both times in California, both times leading to very negative results: bad schools, divided communities, nothing delivered.  But no matter. Such realities are meaningless in the rarified world of the Corporate Reform Industrial Complex where, after   almost a decade of complete dominance over schools from coast to coast, they are still whining about the “ status quo ” as if it were someone other than themselves.

Won’t Back Down may well be a seminal product in American history as it is a popular film that exists solely as a vehicle for a political agenda.  Its purpose is to put a union busting privatizing law on the map, make inroads into the American psyche, further undermine confidence in our school system, and further demonize unions and teachers.    And this explains the almost presidential style public relations campaign the film ‘s promoters have led for the past month or so from coast to coast including events at both the Democratic and Republican conventions.  There may be others, but I, for one, know of no other film that so   nakedly and shamelessly served a political agenda.  That the film is a commercial for the Trigger is not even disguised.  Consider the following from Michelle Rhee’s, she   who publicly vowed to raise a billion dollars to destroy teacher unions.

“For too long, parents of students in failing schools have been stuck without options. Not any more. 

A new reform called “parent trigger” is giving parents a tool to take charge of persistently failing schools and turn them around. Under parent trigger, a majority of parents can petition for real, transformative changes for their school. Seven states already have some form of parent trigger laws on the books, and more than 70% voters say they support them.

 These reforms haven’t come to New York – yet – but they have made it to the big screen. A new film, Won’t Back Down, opening Friday highlights a parent and a teacher – played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis – who team up to turn around their failing school.

Won’t Back Down tells an invigorating story of parents, teachers and concerned citizens working together for the good of the students. We’re trying to make that happen in New York – we need your help, and we need you to see this movie to see the possibilities.”

Or this:

Last week, StudentsFirstNY hosted a screening of the new film Won’t Back Down.

There was a lot of clapping, cheering and crying. But mostly, there was a lot of energy in the theater. Parents from across New York were inspired and motivated, ready to demand transformative education reforms for their children.

After the movie, I met a single mother from Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She was so excited that there was finally a neighborhood organizing effort that gave her a voice.

This was a mother who was engaged – a mother who works late nights and who wants a better education for her son than the one she received. She wants choice. She wants a good school with great teachers. She wants what I want for my own daughter – what we all want as parents.

We’re working for that mom, and for the moms and dads across New York who want a great education for their children


The real purpose of Won’t Back Down  is to utterly malign if not destroy the reputation of the single institution standing in the way of a complete corporate takeover of public education: teacher unions.  Just as the Philip Morris Company once admitted in a confidential memo that cigarettes were nothing more than “ nicotine delivery systems, “even as the head of the company swore under oath that nicotine contributes to the pleasure of smoking, Won’t Back Down was created as a kind of “corporate education delivery system “, even as its publicists babble on about empowering parents, freedom parents and school choice.

Its toxins, lies, distortions, and simplistic solutions to the complex and deeply human problems of educating our nation’s children depicted in Won’t Back Down are meant to enter into the blood stream of every American who sees it without them even knowing it.  Images are powerful weapons, that much the more in an increasingly a-literate, image- based society.  It is not unreasonable to assume that for millions of Americans the perception of schools, teachers and unions will be to some degree formed by this film.  That, in any case, is the purpose of the work.

The fusion of corporate culture and corporate agendas that Won’t Back Down epitomizes is deeply disturbing.

I fear that at the level it is practiced in this film   it is something new in the American experience.

Let us hope that many see it for what it is.    Let us work to make sure they do.

Addendum:  Happily, as yet,  this vile piece of  junk has failed to catch on with the American public.  This is cause for a bit of hope.  Nonetheless, one of the advantages of have virtually limitless wealth combined a limitless desire to impose your will upon a nation is that such failures hardly need  even slow you up.  Consider the failures of standardized tests,  charter schools, VAM and other corporate reform schemes to in any meaningful way improve anything concerning American education.  This has hardly slowed the process of their metastasizing.  Quite the contrary. With the tests,  the implementation of the Common Core assures more students tests than  ever before seen on the planet.  Rest assured, these people will be back and that there is already another Won’t Back Down in the works.

Does Steven Brill’s ‘Class Warfare’ Pass Muster? Not if You Care About the Truth

April 24, 2012

In an attempt to discredit public schools and the teachers who teach in them, Brill ends up mostly discrediting himself.