PSAT for 8-14-12: Let’s not back down!

Public Schools Action Tuesday for today is to keep up the pressure on the Teachers Rock event and Won’t Back Down movie.

Please especially work on your local movie and/or entertainment reporters. They are no doubt receiving buckets of slick PR material from Walden Media, the producers whose Waiting for Superman propaganda sucked all the air out of the school reform debate for a couple of months in 2010.

Here’s a great FAQ on the WBD movie and the parent trigger from Parents Across America to add to the “Just the facts” piece I sent around earlier.

I’m trying to get to Roger Ebert and a TV entertainment reporter I know but we need all hands on deck across the country!

We are beginning to get through to some reporters and even a star or two, as evidenced by this blog post by the great Jose Vilson:

I rarely get the opportunity to have my opinion come in direct conflict with an outstanding actress of any repute, so excuse me if I brag via quote today. The following excerpt was published in the independent media outlet In These Times, written by Josh Eidelson:

Vilson says he was particularly disappointed by Viola Davis’ participation, given The Help star’s past comments about wanting to elevate the voices of often-ignored domestic workers.

“You should also see the alignment between that and what’s going on with teachers,” says Vilson, “and the bad tone that’s being sent throughout the country.”

“I’m sorry,” Davis told the New York Times, “I just know if you don’t have a strong advocate for a child, they’re not going to make it.”

The New York Times reported that the trigger law portrayed in Won’t Back Down differs from its real life counterparts in a key respect: Unlike standard parent triggers laws which require just a majority of parents’ signatures to trigger a turnaround, the law in the movie requires support from a majority of a school’s teachers as well. Asked why, Weil told In These Times, “It was important that the law used be fictional because the film is not based on a specific actual law,” but instead “draws on many situations throughout the country.”

Obviously, we didn’t actually respond to each other, but I might as well have. I anticipated that some of the interviews regarding the two-pronged events of the movie Won’t Back Down and the Teachers Rock! concert sponsored by Walmart will have the same soundbites about helping kids and giving parents advocacy.

The crux of my argument against Won’t Back Down specifically is this: we should recognize that this movie will have a similar effect to what Waiting for Superman had on the general zeitgeist. While not very popular, WfSset a precedent for how many times a non-educator could ask a teacher (namely me) about what really happens under the presumption that the movie has more than an ounce of truth to it.

It had very little, but people bought it anyways, because the movie told them so.

I do get it, though. Parents across the country are in fact frustrated. So are many others. Many public schools aren’t working for kids, and the bureaucracy can frustrate even the most patient parent. It often feels like they get the run-around, and when they do protest, they’re often told about how poorly their child performs and that nothing can be done no matter what they say. Too often, even my colleagues fail to see that side, the side where we as educators have to be complicit in the crap when we rather not be.

Let’s work together.

Instead of supporting “parent trigger,” which replaces one school for another and turns the public school into a non-unionized charter school, let’s assure that children get experienced, high-quality educators who won’t leave after 2-3 years. Let’s have answers, and, if not, let’s work towards creating them. Let’s give the idea of a “community school” one more look over, and see how schools often provide a neighborhood spirit where poverty can’t.

Let’s be the solution.

How do we suppose students and parents get their own agency from a company that doesn’t believe in workers’ rights or fair business practices? Come on now. I’m not backing down from this vision.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.