American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten really does not want you to see the new film “Won’t Back Down.” She unleashed a nearly-2,000 word press release today denouncing the film as as piece of right-wing propaganda that slanders unions:
The last thing that the country and the debate over public education reform needs is another movie that maligns teachers, caricatures teachers unions and misleads the American public about what is happening in public education today.
The film stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. According to its IMDB.com page, it is about “Two determined mothers, one a teacher, look to transform their children’s failing inner city school. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children.”
A feel-good movie that portrays teacher unions as part of the problem? You can see how that would get under Weingarten’s skin.
“I don’t recognize the teachers portrayed in this movie, and I don’t recognize that union,” she fumes, adding later. ”It must be pointed out that the film contains several egregiously misleading scenes with the sole purpose of undermining people’s confidence in public education, public school teachers and teachers unions.”
Why, groans Weingarten, couldn’t they have made the teacher unions the heroes in the film? That would have built support for more power for unions:
This movie could have been a great opportunity to bring parents and teachers together to launch a national movement focused on real teacher and parent collaboration to help all children. Instead, this fictional portrayal, which makes the unions the culprit for all of the problems facing our schools, is divisive and demoralizes millions of great teachers.
This is the second time that Weingarten has denounced a film produced by Walden Media, whose owner is conservative billionaire Philip Anshutz. It also produced the acclaimed documentary “Waiting For Superman,” a stinging critique of the state of American education and teachers unions that portrayed Weingarten as an obstacle to reform.
That film also made a star of DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who had clashed with teachers union in an effort to reform DC’s notoriously bad schools. Rhee fired hundreds of unde performing teachers as part of an effort to raise standards.
Shortly after the film was released Weingarten helped to engineer the defeat of Rhee’s patron, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, as retaliation for the firings. Without his support for her reforms, Rhee stepped down.