Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Charters versus Democracy - They're Unamerican

Once in a while, I come across an article that makes many points that I have been trying to make, usually written more articulately.  However, I was recently forwarded an article that discussed a thing I have never heard of, namely parent-trigger laws.  The article frames this quite falsely named "empowerment" rule in a review of the movie Won't Back Down.  Now, as a teacher, I am not impressed with any of the "earnest and dedicated teacher inspires hard luck kids to succeed despite push-back from teaching veterans" genre that too often is portrayed in films about teaching, which promote the idea that the only thing inner-city kids lack is good teachers that care and everything will be solved.  Poor children's problems cannot be erased by one good teacher.  This movie promises to be as unrealistic whilst simultaneously being dangerous, which is one of the reasons I plan to miss this one.

It's a movie, I get it.  It is "inspired" by actual events.  I remember when movies were "based" on actual events.  It's not meant to represent reality.  Having actually seen the film, Liza Featherstone points out the union-bashing that I fully expected.  But, more than that, she notes that the parent-trigger laws that the movie promotes as a form of empowerment are actually, in the long-run, disempowering.  These laws allow a school to be replaced with a charter if 50 percent of parents agree to it.  But charter schools are private, and not beholden to the public, the parents, nor the students.  They are motivated by moola.  And by choosing charters, the parents in the movie, and other parents exercising the trigger law, are disempowering themselves in the long-term.   In the end, Mrs. Featherstone writes, "the emotional experience of Won’t Back Down is, for the viewer, not unlike that of the best propaganda. As we cheer for [the main characters], we are rooting against ourselves, against our own capacity for self-governance."

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