‘Won’t Back Down’: Why This Education Movie Matters

Maggie Gyllenhaal's decision to star in a schmaltzy takedown of teachers unions just might move education reform into the mainstream

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20th Century Fox

When the journalist Mickey Kaus reviewed cars, he would sometimes ask if they passed the “Saturday night test” — meaning regardless of how well they drove, would he want to pick a date up in one? After watching Won’t Back Down a few times in screenings this year, I found myself asking essentially the same question: my wife and I work in education, but I’m not sure the new Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, and Holly Hunter film clears the bar for date night. The predictable storyline feels more like a 1980s after-school special than a big screen movie. But what’s actually on the screen for two hours isn’t what makes Won’t Back Down matter so much for education.

(MORE: Why Third Grade Is So Important: The “Matthew Effect”)

Despite its sugary Hallmark quality, Won’t Back Down is a serious film about a grim reality — parents and teachers stuck in a system that puts kids last. Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Fitzpatrick, a mom struggling to help her daughter while juggling all the other balls a single mom must keep in the air — work, life, flickering hope of romance. Her daughter’s dysfunctional school is a roadblock to a better future for her, and Fitzpatrick is determined to fix that. She enlists the help of a frustrated teacher (Viola Davis) to try to force the school board to improve the school under a district rule giving parents the ability to force action.

(MORE: Can Parents Take Over Schools?)

The film also has some nuance, unlike the blunt force trauma that tends to dominate education debates. A Teach For America teacher is portrayed not as a caricature of a noble savior or unwitting dupe but rather as a serious young person struggling to make sense of the conflicting values he encounters in a screwed-up urban school system. Played by Oscar Isaac, this teacher tries to reconcile his belief in unions as a tool of social justice with the jobs-and-adults-first reality he finds in his school district. That conflict plays out so frequently in urban schools, frustrating and confusing many young teachers, that it could be the basis of a film in its own right.

(MORE: Won’t Back Down Movie Review: Maggie Gyllenhaal Burns To Be Erin Brockovich)

Won’t Back Down is loosely based on the idea of the “parent trigger” law that allows dissatisfied parents to vote whether to overhaul their child’s school.But Hollywood is ahead of policymakers on this issue. Only seven states have passed “trigger” laws, and parents have yet to actually take control of a school using this kind of policy. In California, where two attempts have been made, both times parents have run into a buzz saw of opposition far harsher than what is portrayed in the film. (At least school district officials and teachers unions can agree on one thing—they don’t want parents calling the shots.) And Won’t Back Down doesn’t get into the difficult question of what happens when parents end up getting their way, something that concerns even those sympathetic to families.

(MORE: Parent Trigger Laws: Shutting Schools, Raising Controversy)

But the most important thing about Won’t Back Down is not the story or the policy, it’s the symbolism. When Gyllenhaal’s brother, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, played a gay cowboy in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, he was praised for taking what was then considered a career risk. That film ended up being a significant moment in America’s evolving acceptance of homosexuals. Given how contentious education reform is, there are certainly safer roles for Maggie Gyllenhaal, a hip actress on her way up, than playing a mom going head to head with the local teachers union. The film’s New York premier was picketed by protesters on Sunday, and the national teachers unions are furiously seeking to discredit it. (Talking point No. 1: one of the film’s production companies, Walden Media, is owned by conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz.)

(MORE: 12 Education Activists to Watch: Maggie Gyllenhaal)

Whether it’s ultimately a cause or effect, Gyllenhaal’s decision to do Won’t Back Down says a lot about how education reform is moving from margins to mainstream. Gyllenhaal and her costars are themselves not backing down in the face of criticism that the film is a school reform propaganda piece. On Monday’s Today Show, Oscar nominee Viola Davis made clear that she understands firsthand how important education is in breaking the cycle of poverty. She grew up poor and seems to have little patience for those resisting efforts to improve public school. “It’s a system that’s broken and needs to be fixed,” she said on the show.

(MORE: Video: Great Performance, Viola Davis)

Whether the film’s protesters know it or not, they are spectacular foils for Won’t Back Down. Between the teachers unions carping that the movie is unfair and activists claiming that giving parents more power is akin to privatization, the critics have succeeded in turning a forgettable education story into a national conversation piece. That’s for the good. Because whatever you think of the film or of the idea of parent triggers as public policy, the plight of families trapped year after year in unacceptable schools is far more gut-wrenching than anything Hollywood could cook up.

97 comments
Bonnie
Bonnie like.author.displayName 1 Like

Andrew, some facts are needed here:

1. American schools are NOT "broken"; nor do they need "fixing". However, I can see why people like you, who have a private, financial interest want to keep this narrative alive and well.

2. The horrific "trigger"---which is clearly designed to break up existing, unified school communities, is the exact OPPOSITE of "giving parents more power". And it is indeed "akin to privatization". Also, kudos for using and helping to popularize OUR phrase. Get used to it. You and your ilk will be hearing a LOT more about "privatization" in the months and years ahead. 

3. Contrary to what you're claiming, both "stars" of this repugnant and mendacious film are cowering, from all reports. They've been trying to stay out of the public spotlight the last couple of weeks, and they're distraught at the friends and family members who are angry, confused, ashamed and very disappointed in them. 

This will not be a boost to either of their careers. They look like they were duped. The phrase "useful idiots" comes to mind. 

4. And, finally, we parents---REAL, mainstream parents---don't want privatizers coming in to our schools. Stay away. And stop trying to use the poorest of our communities as your "beachhead" for your long-term goal of turning our schools into corporate revenue factories. 

You and your kind have had 20 years---TWENTY---with this very dubious and deceptive experiment called "charters". You've failed and so now you've come up with this vile Trigger Scheme. 

It won't work. But how much time, money and energy will you sap from our school communities, forcing we parents to fight back when we could be using that time to help our children become better students and human beings?

Bonnie
Bonnie like.author.displayName 1 Like

Notice how the right-wingers have tried to turn this into a general "BASH THE TEACHERS" Party. 

They're all avoiding what these comments are supposed to be about: This awful, propaganda film that was also critically panned AND broke records for the Worst Attendance In All Of Cinema Theater for a film that opened at more than 3000 theaters nationwide. 

It's garbage; in theme, in plot, in acting, in editing, in everything...worthless trash; and that's before you even get to the ugly, neo-fascist, agitprop indoctrination. 

I'd want to Change The Subject QUICK if I were you too...

Bonnie
Bonnie like.author.displayName 1 Like

Andrew, no personal offense intended, but isn't the REAL reason you want us to believe that "this movie matters" is because you want to indoctrinate people with its mendacious and offensive message? 

Are you trying to salvage what little value might come out of this neo-Leni Riefenstahl flick, financed by a ultra-right wing, anti-gay demagogue from Southern California? 

At least you're up front about having a direct, commercial interest in all of this. Most Privatizers will do their best to hide that fact. And that's because it is, indeed, their primary motivation.

Again, no ad hominem attack is intended here, but I will offer one bit of advice: Don't assume that the majority of your readers can't see through all of this. "

We parents are beginning to get a clue when it comes to this so-called "education reform". 

The Privatizers will, quite literally, have to walk over some dead bodies if they think they're going to come in to OUR schools, and charter or voucher or TRIGGER their way into our bank accounts by using our children? 

Is that clear, or is that still too ambiguous for you? 

quix0te
quix0te

Here's an easy experiment:  If teacher's unions are so corrosive to education, why do less unionized states (Louisiana, Alabama, etc.) not kick the butts of the heavy union states like PA, NY, and MA? 

Demographics?  Fine.  Pick a right-to-work state.  Look up the % teacher's union membership of each county.  Do the counties with the lowest numbers have the best outcomes?

At best, there is no correlation.  At worst, we see that those areas with strong teacher's unions also have the best educational outcomes.

One last experiment.  Find median attendance in a given school.  Compare to educational outcomes.  The correlation is nearly 100%.  Who is it thats not making sure the kids get to school? 

If a school is struggling, its very, very unlikely its because there are all these plucky, involved parents who WANT their kids to succeed, but the mean ol' teachers union won't LET them.  Instead, its a death spiral where you have a few positive parents, and a sizable number who are focused on shielding their kids from consequences.  Its easier to let the parents have there way than fight them. So the kids grow up without consequences.  Except nobody wants to teach there, so its all new teachers, with crazy turnover except for a few martyrs.  Teaching requires a few years to master (3-5).  So these teachers learn the ropes at the students' expense, and as soon as they can, they go to a school where the parents, you know, can be reached on a phone when there's a problem.

SqueakyVoiceofReason
SqueakyVoiceofReason

Thanks Slate for the bio at the end of this piece. I wondered what the business of Bellwether Education might be ? So I googled around a bit and found this mission statement: Bellwether Education Partners works with leaders and public, private, and nonprofit organizations that share our entrepreneurial core values and operating principles." 

So they are, nonprofit 'lobbyists' and consultants for corporate and entrepreneurial education.   Interesting.  Does Mr. Rotherham, "…a co-founder and partner at the nonprofit Bellwether Education" have an axe to grind?  Am I resorting to an argumentum ad hominem* to point out his stake that the ed reform 'debate' go forward on the coat tails of a very biased fiction?   --> I have to wonder if anyone else put 2 and 2 together? Or has everyone been so failed by their public education and paralyzed by fear that connecting the dots between monied interests and nonprofit 'reformers' might cause one to be called, (*gasp* ) a 'liberal' or even, union activist ? For the record, I am neither. Just a meddling old educator with a working mendacity meter and an internet connection. Thank you very much. Using the tools at hand I found a list of some (only some - to be fair) of the corporate interests that support the Bellwether Partners and some of the boards Mr. R sits on:

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

The Michael amp; Susan Dell Foundation

The Bill amp; Melinda Gates Foundation

Robertson Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation

Those foundations represent a lot of grinding ed reform axes all in one place! They all want to "to transform the landscape of urban education."  Uh-huh. And the fox just wants to rearrange the molecules of the chicken. Through it's digestive track. Saying that the chicken will be eviscerated and die, is not permitted. 

* "Professor at U of Windsor, Canada, Doug Walton has argued that ad hominem reasoning is not always fallacious, and that in some instances, questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue. And wikipedia chimes in with this statement - "... an audience can only evaluate information from a source if they know about conflicts of interest that may affect the objectivity of the source. Identification of a conflict of interest is appropriate, and concealment of a conflict of interest is a problem."

Bonnie
Bonnie

"Won't Back Down" is at 18% among critics on the "Rotten Tomatoes" website, which is the exact rating given by critics to "Dude, Where's My Car?"

Maybe they could do what some Hollywood folks do now and then when a film bombs upon release. They stop running it, and then re-release it with a new name and title. 

So, maybe next spring they can issue this film again, this time with the more accurate and fitting title, "Dude, Where's My School?"

Bonnie
Bonnie

Nice try, Andrew Rotherham, but I think we movie-goers know which films are lousy and boring. Word gets out. We don't want to waste our time and money. 

I know you WANT people to see it---oh heck, you wouldn't even care about that, really: you just want them to internalize the reactionary views of the film. Let's get real about your obvious bias. 

But we're still not going to see it. Okay?

Lesser Okay
Lesser Okay

The free market has spoken!

"In eighth place, Won't Back Down

debuted to an atrocious $921,000 from 2,515 locations. It will earn

around $3 million this weekend, which will be one of the worst debuts

ever for a movie in 2,500 or more theaters." - BoxOfficeMojo.com

9/29/12.

Ouch!

JohnnyReason
JohnnyReason

Wow -- this film is yet another example of how America is increasingly leaning to the right.  The proponents of so-called school reform are simply -- knowingly or unknowingly -- shills for big business interests that stand to make a ton of money by privatizing education (kind of how Blackwater-type contractors suck away money from our military budget).  Many kids in America's "underperforming" schools often come from broken inner city homes, where there are no books in the home, where no one in the family has a college education, where drug use is sometimes the norm, where there's often not enough food to eat, where family members have been the victim of discrimination, etc.

To expect teachers to remedy all this is a fantasy.

It's interesting how both the right and left have become united on this issue: The right obviously wants to siphon off education money to enrich the rich, while I suspect the left feels guilt about the failure of the dreams of the civil rights movement. Teachers are a convenient scapegoat.

Bruce Fancher
Bruce Fancher

It's good that three or four decades after school choice started to become widely discussed and supported on the right, leftists (please, don't call people who believe in more government regulation and less personal autonomy "liberals") are finally waking up to the massive damage that teachers' unions have inflicted on the educational prospects of tens of millions of poor children.  It's sad though that Barack Obama still opposes offering scholarships to poor, mostly minority children in Washington, D.C., and still refers to any criticism of those unions as "teacher bashing".  But hey, I guess he knows which side of his bread the butter's on.  Poor families don't make multi-million cash and in-kind campaign donations, but unions do.

thewalrusnow
thewalrusnow

This debate has really become ridiculous. People are making claims that are unsubstantiated, instead repeat talking points presented by the media.

First, people need to realize that a major problem with our education system is that we have 20% of our children living in poverty. We have one of (if not the) highest child poverty rate of the developed world. Those nations scoring well on international tests have child poverty rates bt 2-8%. In fact, if you remove the scores of those living in poverty the US ranks in the top 5 in every subject seen on the international tests. We need to decrease our child poverty levels, we also need to have a more equal society, again the US compares to third world countries like Rwanda and Venezuela when it comes to income inequality (top 1% is now taking home highest income % in US history, and is estimated to control as much wealth as the bottom 90%. These are problems that need to be fixed if we want a successful education system.

Second, people are claiming the need for more charters. People need to realize that most research on this matter concludes that charters do not outperform traditional public schools and at the same time they enroll a smaller % of english language learners and special education students (see CREDO study and GAO study in support of these claims). Further, these schools also have the advantage of having the most motivated students in a specific area. It has been noted that those willing to move to a charter or apply to a charter school often are the most motivated, this should result in greater test scores, but this hasnt really happened. Charters are also able to remove students for bad performance, behavior, and even if parents are not following school rules. Again providing an advantage to charter schools.

Third, people claim that teachers are underpaid. Nationally, according to the OECD US teachers are underpaid on average making 62-75% of what their fellow private worker would make when accounting for education and experience. That actually ranks the US in the bottom 5 of OECD nations in teacher pay. The same study also reported that US teachers annually teach more than every other OECD nation except for Chile (which has been having riots over its unequal education system for yrs., system was also based on a charter/voucher system which was ushered in with the help of the chicago boys/milton friedman) and Argentina. 

Fourth, many claim that the CTU was greedy and that rahm was "for the kids". Let me ask you how is cutting funding to public schools and moving this to political friends charter school good for the kids? or how is removing the arts, sciences, and languages good for the kids? The CTU fought for and won for art and electives in CPS. They are now forcing rahm to hire some 600 new teachers in art, music, special ed. PE, and world languages. CPS students will now be able to learn a variety of subjects, which helps learning and has been proven to drive up graduation rates. 

fifth, many claim unions are the problem. Again data disagrees. A harvard 200o study reported that union states actually have better student performance than right-to-work, non-union states. Further, looking at the scores of national tests, union states by in large outperform right to work states. On an international scale those states that perform well often have a highly unionized workforce. For example, Finland (top 3) has a near 100% union teacher workforce. They also only give their students one standardized test during their student career which is not used to decide teacher performance. They also do not have private schooling.

cgent47
cgent47

"The process of collective bargaining, cannot be transplanted into the public service," Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, "I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place" in the public sector. "A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government."

---Franklin D. Roosevelt

austin87j
austin87j

EX DEMOCRAT here are a few quotes supporting my theory that Republicans support their arguments with feelings rather than facts:   

"I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration."  Herman Cain in The Wall Street Journal 10/25/11"President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale."--Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, testifying before Congress 2/26/06"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Todd Akin KTVI TV 8/19/12"Facts are stupid things." Ronald Reagan

artvet2
artvet2

Hey folks - seems to me that we all know without a doubt that the U.S. has serious problems within its schools, in spite of spending astronomical amounts of money per student. An yet, very few teachers accept any of the responsibility to FIX the problems. Most, along with their union, simply scream for more money. I say, since they know better than the public, they should take the lead! Quit following your union bosses and a broke system! MAKE A CHANGE!

thewalrusnow
thewalrusnow

What are you basing the argument that we have serious problems? While we score in the middle of the pack on international tests, this is the result of poverty (20% of US children living in poverty). If we dont count the students living in poverty the US ranks in the top 5 in every subject. The problem therefore is our economic system that has created such poverty and inequality. Further, while we continually blame teachers for our failure we dont provide them with the tools necessary to succeed. We take power out of their hands and force them to teach to a test, which is supposed to decipher who is excelling as a teacher, while these tests have been proven time and time again to be worthless and to not measure student ability much less teacher performance. 

As a person working with education systems abroad, I believe teachers should take charge, but for this to happen politicians and the media need to actually allow these professionals to implement reforms.

artvet2
artvet2

More blame someone else for your own inability to effect change within your own profession!

theassailedteacher
theassailedteacher

 ARTVET2,

1) Childhood poverty is at appalling levels. The United States leads the industrial world in childhood poverty. This is a trend that has accelerated over the past 35 years, with its biggest surge since Clinton's welfare reform and Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.

http://theassailedteacher.com/...

2) Class size has EVERYTHING to do with learning. You cite ONE "study" (is it even a study?) done by FOX (Fox?, seriously) when the preponderance of research shows that smaller class sizes and teacher experience are the only two in-class factors that do impact student achievement. If it did not, why do the wealthy people who want to "reform" (destroy) public education send their own children to schools with small class sizes, experienced teachers, rich extra-curricular activities and the rest? See the movie on Youtube "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman."

3) Here in New York City, 60% of the teachers have come into the system during the last 10 years. Some of this is due to the retirement of veteran teachers while the rest of it is due to the city's war on veterans, which have terminated or creatively forced into retirement thousands of experience teachers labeled as "ineffective". The trope that "tenure" means a job for life or that "bad" teachers are impossible to fire just does not hold water. Anybody who has worked in an urban school will tell you the same.

4) Your anti-teacher bias drips from every word you write, especially saying that teachers have to be the "dumbest" people around. It is sad that the media has whipped people up into such an anti-teacher frenzy.

5) If you truly cared about children or education, you would attack first and foremost childhood poverty. You would call for greater investment in poor communities and greater parental control over school boards. (No parent trigger laws do not give parents elective control over school boards). Instead, what we have seen is a trend of "Mayoral Control" in urban areas where democratically-elected school boards are handed over to autocratic mayors who then siphon off public education funds to put them into the pockets of contractors. It is legalized graft and corruption.

6) I do not call for more money being thrown into the system. We can spend less money on education by eliminating high-paid consultants who do not do anything but collect six-figure salaries and by eliminating no-bid contracts that deliver outdated and useless services to schools. Cut the waste and send the money into the classroom itself. All of these statistics that say we spend "X-thousands of dollars" per student mean nothing because that money does not go to students at all.

7) Teacher evaluation systems that are being forced down the throats of school districts across the country are being based on standardized exams. Even though, again, the preponderance of research shows that testing is the weakest and narrowest way of assessing student learning and that ZERO research says that it in any way measure teacher effectiveness.

But that is ok. As long as YOU have your talking points and your FOX and Andrew Rotherham feeding you what to think, you will always be correct, right?

artvet2
artvet2

Your facts are wrong. Real poverty is NOT at an all time high. Class size has little to do with effective learning - see the work recently done by Juan Williams of Fox. Teacher salaries in many or most places are at an all time high, as are benefits. You ARE the professionals - when do you begin to act like them? You complain about teacher evaluations, yet you make it nearly impossible to eliminate truly bad teachers. Where is your effective evaluation tool? I have six decades and I can not tell you how many times I have heard these same tired old arguments about why the teachers can't do their jobs. Teachers must be some of the dumbest people on the planet if they can't figure it out after so many years of the same failings! I once thought that teaching should be the highest paid profession but the most difficult to join - boy, was I ever wrong. I am beginning to think that we should all go to home schooling!

thewalrusnow
thewalrusnow

Teachers are not without blame. they simply shouldnt receive all the criticism when they several factors influence student performance, our nation has ridiculous levels of child poverty and the reform movement is being led by politicians, philanthropists, and think tanks instead of teachers, which further takes power and control out of the hands of teachers. its like blaming the police for crime, when poverty levels are at all-time highs, while the gov. is cutting funds, decreasing officers, and taking away police power to actually create policy to combat crime. It is further expecting that by 2014 all crime would be gone. That is what is currently happening. we blame teachers, yet we undermine them, grade them on tests that do not adequately assess performance, increase class sizes making it more difficult to provide all students with the necessary care, force them to teach to tests instead of actual learning, and then state that by 2014 all (100%) of students have to be "proficient" in reading and math, if not they are failures. Then when they fail , we blame them and cut even more programs. It is a viscous cycle. Give the teachers some power, allow them to be professionals and also invest in our children with healthcare while lowering poverty in our communities. unfortunately, for the "reformers" that means limiting their own power and control of the system, something they dont want to do

josephmateus
josephmateus

 Mr. Andrew J. Rotherham, you are totally mistaken here. You wrote that the gay movie Brokeback Mountain helped America evolve towards accepting homosexuals. Actually, the exact opposite happened. Being the fact that 90% of Americans are actually normal heterosexual, seeing such a movie depicting the devious depraved deviant aberrant and abominable acts of this two faggots only got the vast majority of Americans totally disgusted to even hate them more, because such a movie was a real insult to their morals and beliefs.

The only ones who loved this 2005 Brokeback Mountain movie were the faggots, lesbians and transsexuals themselves, that is it, that is all.

You seem to think that just because the vast majority of people who are normal heterosexual condone this aberrational abominable deviant gay sex activity because they prefer to maintain silent when confronted to such attacks on their morals, but in their silence they have a real rage and increased hatred towards faggots and lesbians. And to prov my point, of all the 46 six states that had referendums on same sex marriage, the vast majority rejected it, and it was only approved in 5 or 6 states. Why? Because the silent majority finally revolted and made their point at the ballot box.

And Barack Obama should be really ashamed of himself, since he declared publicly that he embraces gays and lesbians as well as same sex marriage. I wonder how he would feel if his two daughters turned out to be two deviant devious abominable lesbians. He would fell pretty darn bad, there is no doubt about it. 

Some politicians such as Mr. Obama makes deals with the devil, in order to be re-elected.

SenatorSting
SenatorSting

Labor unions are just a democrat money laundering operation. Taxes are taken from productive citizens, the money is used to pay teachers and other unions members, the union automatically confiscates the unions dues, the union funnels money to politicians so that the politicians will pass more legislation that raises more taxes, increases benefits to the unions, and give more money to themselves.

This is a system designed to beneft the unions, not educate the children.

Organized crime never had it this good.

Michael
Michael

Here's the real issue - and i write this as a parent of a very dedicated teacher who's reached the end of her rope. 

The unintended consequences of the federal mandates are strangling education.  First of all, Education was historically a local government function.  Meddling in education at the Federal level has resulted in an unbelievably expensive, complex, and ultimately useless public education system. 

As an example, since schools are graded on overall test scores, Principals have an incentive to classify below-average students as learning disabled - even if they're just lazy, because Special Education kids are counted differently.  This labels a kid forever as a loser - and stuffs special education classrooms full of people who can learn at normal grade level just fine - if they wanted to.  Due to the 'special handling' that special education students get - personallized learning plans and so on, this loading of normal kids into SE classes results in SE teachers having to prepare/update/work on an enormous load of these special plans - in order to support 'books-cooking' school districts.  Not to mention that the kid is forever labeled 'Special Education'.

My daughter has had it.  As a teacher who started with a specialty in teaching Autistic children (and you want to talk commitment, here it is - try doing this for a living - and loving it - most wouldn't last 10 minutes).  The paperwork, burocracy, politics, and the rest have destroyed her desire to make kids lives better.  She's actively looking for a job in which she, first of all doesn't have to work 90 hours a week (and so, can see her own kids), and can be paid as a professional. 

The kids she could have helped will suffer.

The federal government has NO BUSINESS dealing with education.  Has the Dept. of Education actually educated 1 kid?  NO. 

This is the primary problem facing the US - various levels of government not sticking to their knitting - if every level of government was actually limited to their enumerated powers, the cost of government would be half what it is, and things would work more efficiently. 

The way we've evolved is just nuts - and a complete overhaul is called for.

Oh, and for teachers unions - USELESS - they care not one bit about getting kids educated, or even making teachers lives better.  Their only purpose is promoting a political agenda and keeping themselves in cushy, well paid jobs in which no actual work product is required.

heza_nidiot
heza_nidiot

This.

We won't fix anything so long as we continue to tolerate a federal government that functions exactly like the teachers' unions do: i.e., as guarantor of middle-class sinecures in a bloated bureaucracy with absolutely no consideration of, or accountability for, outcomes. Sadly, the trail of wreckage left by Big Education is but one small example of what Sodom-on-Potomac is doing to this once-great Republic.

SenatorSting
SenatorSting

It will take brave people in all industries, including education, to refuse the federal funding and all the strings that are attached. People need to realize that taking dirty federal funds are actually selling out their own freedoms and liberties.

How much is freedom worth? Men gave their lives for it, but we sell it back.

Kayla Sonergoran
Kayla Sonergoran

The number 1 problem with schools isn't the teachers, and isn't even the bad parents. The major problem is the politics specifically all the politicians that feel they should have an opinion on everything. I mean when a history textbook is turned into a political debate with republicans attempting to rewrite history and then you have issues of evolution vs. creationism in bio books can one really be surprised that the education system is a failure?

Politicians are so busy thinking the opposite side is a mortal enemy are so keen on trying to win more potential voters and prevent what they think is "brainwashing" students today never stood a chance.

What is sad is that politicians have used teachers as scapegoats. We all get the blame for everything even when we lack control and have our hands tied. Do you think teachers want to waste precious school hours on standardized tests that are inherently unfair to half the student population that doesn't have the money or resources? 

Our toxic political world is what destroyed the education system and until parents wake up and see what they are doing and stop blaming unions and teachers, the problem will NEVER go away.

Society can keep advocating policies that are driving the good teachers out of the profession but that will only worsen a bad situation.

cgent47
cgent47

Sorry Kayla its the unions. Just look at what happened in Chicago. They wait for the first day of school and go on strike.

Typical liberal hypocrites. Rahm you send your own children to a $25,000 a year private school and screw the rest of the children of Chicago. Sound familiar. Obama does the same thing. Failing public schools are just fine for commoners but not the elite. How about school choice for all American children.

SenatorSting
SenatorSting

You are making a good case for a limited federal governmnet like we used to have. Why would any rational person want the education of their children to be influenced by politics? Why would anyone want to depend on politicians for their retirement? Worst of all, why would anybody want a politicians influence over the care for their own body and health?

thewalrusnow
thewalrusnow

There is nothing wrong with the federal government providing simple standards. A big problem is that NCLB had unreasonable goals (100% proficiency in math and reading by 2014). That is akin to claiming that by 2014 there would be no crime at all in Chicago, and if that doesnt happen then the entire police force is to blame and should be fired. Further, NCLB allowed states to write their standards and definition of "proficiency" which has varied widely and led many states to lower their "proficiency" levels in order to pass students. If the government provides one uniform definition that would be better. Also since the tests only measure reading and math, it has forced schools to focus on only these two subjects, resulting in the hard and social sciences, and art being cut by many schools. The only thing that matters is passing these tests, this has further led to teaching to the test which has hurt overall learning by US students.

Elizabeth Davis
Elizabeth Davis

"Maggie Gyllenhaal's decision to star in a schmaltzy takedown of teachers unions just might move education reform into the mainstream..."

Really?  So that's what it takes to make anyone open their eyes and care?  As a public school teacher of 10 years (a baby - but I've seen enough and been forced to grow a tough enough skin) I am offended.  Nevermind several of the well-done documentaries that have been put out in recent years (waiting for superman; american teacher).  As soon as a noted star plays a role in a FILM personifying 'reform' THAT's what it takes to make reform matter.  That is sad.  Perhaps it is time for people to WAKE UP and look at the public schools around you.  They are in a world of hurt, and it should NOT take some hollywood film to make people recognize the need for reform.  

Andrea
Andrea

Yes, there is something about this message having to be in a film for its message to be taken seriously or even heard at all.  What kind of person isn't already aware of the problems in our schools?  They need to watch a fictionalized movie to become aware of this problem?  Something very shallow about that.

Ortho Stice
Ortho Stice

The solution to the "problem" of public schools:  tests over common core standards, built into the curriculum, on which students' promotion is contingent.  When externally developed tests are taken by students for whom passing and failing is a no-stakes proposition (see: Stanford-Binet, Explore, Plan, PSAT)  failure is inevitable.  Most public schools are not places where Joe Clark exhorts the student body to excel for the glory of old East Side High.  If there is nothing, positive or negative, in it for the kids, they will not take such tests seriously.  Right now, the only tests in which kids try to excel  are the ACT and SAT, because their college acceptance weighs in the balance.

 Tie the tests to the core curriculum and make students personally accountable every time they take a test, and you will see scores increase exponentially.

By the way, this suggestion is coming from one of  those "union thugs" you all love to rail against.

BabyBoo
BabyBoo

Just to shed light on those misinformed lefties - the conservative ideal (Republican) is that all children (no matter of race or social standing) deserve to have a quality taxpayer-funded education which has a much better chance of lifting those out of poverty, out of a possible life of crime, drug abuse and creating more responsible citizens - yes, the high tide of a quality education floats all boats! Less taxpayer money being used for fighting crime, prisons, drug abuse and welfare fraud.

BabyBoo
BabyBoo

A fmr. head of a national teachers union proclaimed that until school children start paying union dues, their concerns will not be addressed. This is all you need to know about the teachers' unions. Public sector unions are the tool in which all american taxpayers (Democrats, Republicans and Independents) fund the Democratic party, like it or not! When will the minorities and the poor figure this out - supporting Democrats which rely on teachers unions are their forever ticket to their very own sub-standard education which keeps them locked in their perpetual poverty.

ounceoflogic
ounceoflogic

“When school children start paying union dues, that 's when I'll start representing the interests of school children.”

----  Albert Shanker,

President of the Teachers Union (United Federation of Teachers) from

1964 to 1984 as well as President of the Teachers Union (American

Federation of Teachers) from 1974 to 1997.

Never heard this quote before but it certainly says it all about the teachers unions.

amysterling
amysterling

I'm astonished to see this film review in Time. I am further surprised to learn while reading the review, that the stars of the movie were on the Today show. I thought that unions and teachers were the most important thing in America, and anyone who criticized them in any manner was not featured in this type of media publication. I don't understand why this film is shown. It sounds as offensive as "Innocence of Muslims." It shouldn't be shown in theaters! It is obviously an evil attack on America's hardest-working, lowest-paid group, teachers, and on our schools, which are the lowest-funded in the world. Even schools in Somalia spend more per pupil! If we just raised taxes on millionaires and billionaires, we could give teachers the raises and increased retirement they so richly deserve and have never received. We could reduce class sizes to . . . zero . . . that's right! Zero! Then we would have the best education system in the world. By the way, the reason students do poorly on standardized tests is that we shouldn't have tests, and parents don't care about their children. We have to close down all charter schools because they hurt children and are racist. It's obvious this is a racist movie. ((sarcasm)) I'm, by the way, a teacher (not K-12).

georgechapogas
georgechapogas

 an obvious jonathon swift fan. i have a great recipe for roasted teacher shish kabob. care for me to share?

amysterling
amysterling

That would be delicious! And a clear solution for the school lunch controversy. Although I am pretty sure that it might be too high-fat to meet our current tasty and healthy standards.

Chuck Lynch
Chuck Lynch

I am a conservative teacher but a big problem in North Carolina particularly on the coast is a lot of conservatives and liberals come down from the northeast and have no desire to pay an appropriate amount of property taxes. They could care less about education and vote for folks that are anti-education. That is why the politics in NC have changed dramatically. Most of this reform movement is being done the wrong way. There are a ton of good teachers out there, perhaps 90% are great teachers and people. It is the 10% that suck up to the union boses and the administrators who have terrible test scores and get protection regardless. Sadly when the politicians attempt reform or cut budgets districts respond by cutting teachers. It makes the politicians look bad. They have not figured out that you increase teachers pay, keep class sizes down and school districts may be forced to cut an assistant superintendent somewhere. Unless you think every school district needs 8 assistant superintendents, PR folks, tons of Principals and assistant Principals, accountants at every school, teachers assistants that are utterly confused about what they are supposed to do. Reform is needed, but teachers should be apart of that. We know where the problems are! My school has a full-time police officer in an area where crime is unheard of. We pay for that although police should patrol school areas anyhow. Why should that come from the education budget. The poor guy sits in his office 180 days a year looking into a computer screen borred out of his mind. He will be the first to tell you that!

SenatorSting
SenatorSting

It doesn't take money for a child to learn. It takes the willingness from the child to learn and the willingness of someone to provide the knowlege and training.

The money only comes in as the incentive for the teacher to provide the service. I am not saying this incentive is not legitimate, but we need to recognize that money doesn't make people learn. It takes at least one willing party, as those who are motivated enough to learn will do so with or without a teacher.

teresateton
teresateton

Without unions, politicians will take over education.  Schools will become as partisan as FOXtv.  A corportate billionaire waits in the wings to profit from the equation.  Unions are not the enemies of education.  Poverty is.   I will never, ever watch a film with these actors in it again.

obamiedclown
obamiedclown

Do ya' seriously want to fix the problem? Private school vouchers and parent/student choice.

thewalrusnow
thewalrusnow

which have failed in every city and district they have been implemented to yield results. people please look at the research on vouchers and charters before posting of how great they are. when actually looking at the research you find how wrong your assumptions are.

georgechapogas
georgechapogas

 that is more of your bologna. private schools, charter schools, even home schooling out perform regular public schools, but frankly even if they did not getting rid of all public schools and their phony useless teachers would benefit mankind and cause an explosion of learning for the vast majority of kids. public schools are nothing but dead weight designed to vacuum the public's money and keep kids in perpetual crisis.

thewalrusnow
thewalrusnow

 george: Please see CREDO (stanford study) it claims that 37% of charters perform worse than traditional public schools and only 15-18% outperform traditional public schools. It was cited in "waiting for superman" but apparently people forgot that sentence. Also see the recent GAO study which reported that charters are less likely to enroll english language learners and special ed. students.

Also realize that by looking at national tests it has been reported (Harvard 2000) that right to work states (non-union) underperform compared to union-states even when taking into account student socio-economic status. Data and research actually disagrees with your opinion. Further, it should be noted that charters and vouchers are provided certain advantages, which should lead to better results. They only enroll the best, most motivated students, they have smaller class sizes, are often removed from national standards and can expel students for their behavior or even their parents behavior. 

obamiedclown
obamiedclown

Yeah right. Public schools are great.....that's why so many politicians and public school teachers send their kids to private schools. What is the average there in Chicago for politicians sending their kids to private schools? 40%?

Ronald Pires
Ronald Pires

 One day, after the filthy rich get done sacking Junior's public school system just so they don't have to pay property taxes, and Junior is blathering around your feet unable to construct a single comprehensible sentence without sounding like the trailer trash on Honey Boo Boo, you all will be sitting there wondering who did this to you, because obviously none of your dumb asses could possibly have done it to yourselves.

 

As for me, I'll surely be off in Heaven by then, but I promise, I will look down upon your sad circumstances gently, knowing the truth, that you were had by shysters, and I will merely smile.

William Starr
William Starr

 Yeah the rich really care about those kids education, they could not give  hoot. Barry and his girls are in the best private schools in DC.Barry and the "rich" are the one actually laughing their butts off that you send your kids to those hell holes.

Emma
Emma

Public education is to education as public housing is to housing.

There's no way to reform it -- except the way public housing was finally reformed:  By giving rent vouchers.

dreweydrew
dreweydrew

in other countries public education works very well. Especially Japan and the Scandinavian countries.  So obviously if there is a problem then it's not public education. It's how we are implementing it in this country.