Another far-right-funded film, another false story about schools

The far-right funders who brought us the anti-public-education, anti-teacher, anti-union movie “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” are back with another fake story claiming to be “inspired by actual events.” This time they hired big-name actors:  Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Holly Hunter. The movie is purportedly based on the Parent Trigger, a hot fad among education reformers that was created by and for forces whose goal is to divert public money into private pockets, attempting to masquerade as a tool for parent empowerment. Reportedly, the movie is inspired by the failed Parent Trigger attempt in Compton, Calif., in December 2010, run by the fake-grassroots organization Parent Revolution.

Currently, only the film’s trailer is available. Here’s the plot as revealed by the trailer: Bad teachers in a bad school fail to teach children, and cite poverty as their lame excuse. One of the bad teachers locks a little girl in a closet and punches her,  and sneers about it. The child’s mom decides to lead a takeover of the school. Parents unite behind her, they triumph, they dance Bollywood-style to upbeat music.


An open letter of sorts from someone familiar with the Compton community landed in my inbox, addressed to Lee Finnie, a parent at the school who led the effort to fight back against the billionaire-funded Parent Trigger attack on her school community. The writer of the e-mail asked to remain anonymous.

— Caroline Grannan, Parents Across America founding member, San Francisco

Lee,
There’s an old saying, “No matter how cynical I become, I can never quite keep up.”
Indeed, something even more unethical, despicable, underhanded emerges … and that is the pro-Parent Revolution, pro-Parent-Trigger propaganda film soon to come out… “Won’t Back Down, ” starring Viola Davis, from the recent hit film, “The Help.”
(From the same company that brought you “Waiting for ‘Superman’ “).

Here’s the trailer:
Now, it says the film is “Based on Actual Events. ” Well, the actual events they refer to are what happened in Compton from fall 2010 through summer 2011 regarding the attempted hostile takeover of McKinley Elementary School.  Lee, you were there, so you know what really happened. Indeed, the film’s production company was making a documentary about the whole thing, and we all know they did not get the triumphant ending in real life they were hoping for …  a mere 40 or so parents/children ended up choosing/attending the Celerity Charter School that was later allowed to open (nearby). (NOTE:  one shot in the trailer shows a protest parade of HUNDREDS of parents supporting the Parent Trigger.
Well, they’re not ready to let the facts get in the way of good propaganda.
THE SOLUTION:  fictionalize the story.
Now Lee, I’ve watched the trailer a few times, and I haven’t been able to identify a character based on you.  However, here’s a question:
To the best of your knowledge, when a student at McKinley struggles to read—perhaps because of a learning disability—is it common practice for a sadistic teacher to lock her in a maintenance closet as punishment to then movitate the child to improve her reading? Well, check out 0:33-0:43 in the trailer.  The unionized teacher is a deranged sadist who hates children … nice.
The mom (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a stand-in for one of the parents successfully recruited by Ben Austin (hired operative who heads Parent Revolution) and Parent Revolution, and who leads the whole crusade almost single-handedly. She’s poor, but determined to fight the combined evil forces of fictionalized Compton Unified and the fictionalized Compton Teacher’s Union.  She storms into the school, desperately searching for her abused child stuck in the closet. Finding her, she then drags her child out, and screams at the  evil union witch teacher, “You stay away from my child!!!!”
Once safe, the mother comforts her child, saying with quiet resolve, “I’m gonna get you out of there.” Since the film portrays union and administrators as working in lockstep, apparently such sadistic abuse is condoned by the principal of the fictionalized McKinley. Either that, or the  principal at least allows this to occur, then looks  the other way.
I’ve read a lot about what went on in Compton, but I’ve never heard this story.  Indeed, I teach in public schools in similar communities in L.A., and I can tell you that if any teacher ever did anything of this nature, the police would be called. Does it work any differently in Compton?
From the trailer, it looks as if the Parent Trigger petition drive originates with this woman and other parents.  Any outside help is asked for and then arrives later. The mom approaches an anti-union teacher— the only non-psycho, non-child-hating teacher from the fictionalized McKinley — and then recruits this teacher (“The Help’s”  Viola Davis), with the idea that, again, originated with Mom (and not any outside organization): “Do you want to take over this school with me?” She agrees, and they’re off and running.
However, they must now take on the twin forces of evil — the district and the union. The trailer shows a Parent Trigger sales pitch in the living room of a parent.  Who’s present in the room?  The mom, Viola, and the prospective signer of the petition.
There are no outside organizers in the room.
No Shirley Ford (a paid operative of Parent Revolution, which initiated the Parent Trigger attempt in Compton before any parents at the school ever heard about it).
No Mary Najera (ditto).
No Christina Sanchez (ditto).
No professional, paid signature-gatherers.
There’s a four-way split-screen of the signature drive.  Again, it’s the mom and Viola going to skeptical parents spreading the Parent Trigger Gospel. Again, there are no paid operatives from outside.  There’s no one falsely claiming to be Compton residents or McKinley parents.
Next, a little side plot where the single mom has a romance with a hunky teacher… you know, a little beefcake sex appeal to draw in the gals. Then the evil principal confronts them, “If you’re on campus, you will be arrested!” (For movie fans, the principal is played by Bill Nunn, Radio Raheem from “Do the Right Thing” … whose choking to death by the police sparked THAT film’s riot.)
Then you have Holly Hunter, who plays the Ben Austin/Parent Revolution person. After getting the needed signatures,
THEN, AND ONLY THEN do they then go to her for help … exactly the way it happened in real life down in Compton, right?
There’s the school board meeting where the petition is denied by the evil school board, but they refuse to give up. Lee, remember that December board meeting when there were three or four hours of anti-Parent-Trigger parents complaining about being duped into signing the petition, about being lied to, etc.? It’s just a guess, but I imagine that’s not going to make it into the movie.
Viola says, “An all-out war is how we have to look at it.”  Again, NO OUTSIDE PAID ORGANIZERS IN SIGHT.  No Celerity
Charter folks.  No Emmitt-Till-hating charter CEO’s [this refers to a newsmaking incident in which a teacher at a charter school run by the operator Celerity, which was poised to take over McKinley, was fired for teaching about Emmett Till, the African-American teenager who was lynched in a moment that became part of the legacy of Southern racism.]  Next, we have the well-dressed union thug addressing his troops, “Under attack, we attack!!!”  Of course, he’s bald, because in movie-speak… bald = evil.
Another high-up union guy angrily frets about this anti-union, pro-parent movement spreading like wildfire: “It’s a feeding frenzy!  District offices from all over the state are getting slammed with calls! This is not good!” The mom leads a parade march of hundreds of parents, then, clutching a megaphone, she fires up the crowd: “We have to be the change we wanna see!!!”
There’s a brief party scene where the pro-Parent Trigger parents are doing a line dance. ALL OF THIS UNDERSCORED WITH AN UPBEAT, TRIUMPHANT SCORE.
I’ve had enough.
Watch it for yourself.
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