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'Won't Back Down' screened in Philadelphia Wednesday night

By the Notebook on Sep 20, 2012 10:52 AM
Photo: Kait Privitera, for Mayor's Office

Mayor Michael Nutter and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan were among the panelists who discussed the movie.

By Benjamin Herold
for NewsWorks, a Notebook news partner

Mayor Nutter and Pennsylvania State Sen. Anthony WIlliams joined more than a hundred Philadelphians on Wednesday night for a special advance screening of Won’t Back Down, a new movie about education reform that is provoking sharp criticism from teachers' unions. 

In the film, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis play a pair of Pittsburgh moms who join forces to fix their children's failing school. Davis' character is also a teacher at the school.   

Won’t Back Down is both a major motion picture and a polished example of contemporary issue advocacy. Wednesday’s screening was hosted by StudentsFirst, a California-based nonprofit group that has been pushing states to adopt so-called “parent trigger” laws. The laws generally allow parents to petition for a total overhaul of their kids’ schools, if they can get a majority to sign on.

Director Daniel Barnz said his goal was to provoke discussion and action.

"What the film wants to focus on, and what I think many people in the education reform want to focus on, are the kids," Barnz said. 

But the movie’s harsh depiction of a teachers' union didn't sit well with some, including Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan. He was particularly put off by a scene in which teachers say they can’t put in extra hours because of union work rules.

“This is a work of fiction,” Jordan said. “Teachers in Philadelphia stay after school for hours.”

Mayor Nutter generally tried to strike a conciliatory tone, emphasizing the need for stakeholders from across the spectrum to work together.  

Sen. Williams moderated the discussion. He unsuccessfully tried to get the Pennsylvania legislature to enact a parent trigger law last year. He said another version of the bill is "teed up" for consideration later in the fall.   

“Won’t Back Down” opens in theaters on Sept. 28.


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Comments (14)

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on September 20, 2012 1:12 pm

Isn't StudentsFirst Michelle Rhee's puppy?

Submitted by tom-104 on September 20, 2012 2:46 pm

Yes it is. Here is some information from Parents Across America:

What Parents need to know: FAQ "Won't Back Down" & Parent Trigger

Also, see the latest from Dan Denvir at City Paper which includes a comment about the film showing:

Mayors Conference takes hard line against teachers unions but Nutter flees controversy

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 20, 2012 2:35 pm

Thanks Tom for leading our way toward the truth.

I was down at the federal courthouse yesterday and in the lobby was a really cool exhibit about the 1st Amendment to our Constitution and what it means to American democracy.

If every citizen makes his or her voice heard loudly and clearly, the "inconvenient truth" about these propaganda events and the fictional stories they promote will come to light.

There is a great commentary in City School Stories today about trust formation which speaks so much more honestly about the state of education in Philadelphia and America.

It is time for all Americans and Philadelphians to rise and speak. It really is....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 9:44 pm

Students First is the organization that poured big bucks into Pennsylvania's last legislative election in support of pro-charter and pro-voucher candidates. They tried to replace pro-public school legislators such as Rep. James Roebuck who is head of the House Education Committee. They were largely unsuccessful.

And yes, Students First was started and is now headed by Michelle Rhee.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 1:36 pm

That wasn't the national Students First.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 2:17 pm

All Students First are connected to the national organization. Michelle Rhee spent a week in Harrisburg before the legislative elections last spring trying to get pro-charter and pro-voucher candidates elected. Stop trying to spread disinformation!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 27, 2012 12:24 pm

There were a number of organizations that spent money in Pennsylvania to see true education reform. No one like Students First spends money to get rid of someone like Roebuck. Look at their name STUDENTS FIRST not adults and their educational agenda first. The Philadelphia school system has been an anchor around the neck's of Pennsylvania taxpayers for years. It is an endless pit of state tax dollars going into a school system that has seen nothing but terrible results. If more money worked then Philadelphia's schools should be one of the best in the state. Children do not march to the same drummer, and options and choice is what they deserve and need. Defending the staus quo shows little results with children and their future being the victims. Shame on all of you that are more worried about protecting your corner of the education bureaucracy.
Children are the pawns in your game, and that is no longer acceptable.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 5:23 pm

Why is any commentary from Michelle Rhee still plausible? Isn't this the same person who was reprimanded for "taping a child's mouth shut" when she, herself, was a teacher? I refuse to answer to any law, suggestion, ruling or otherwise that emanates from this woman's ideologies on education.

We must not forget these things! Yet, the state continues to turn a "Blind Eye" to this. Teachers need to get loud folks! Michelle Rhee is the core example of what WE DON'T WANT IN THE CLASSROOM!

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on September 20, 2012 1:48 pm

Won't Back Down?   Mayor "Get Used To It" has backed down consistently when it comes to fighting against budget cuts that harm our children and increase the poverty of our city.   The whole "choice" lobby is part of a corporate agenda that wants to do education on the cheap and increase their market share.   Unions stand in the way so busting them is job one.



Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 6:39 pm

Nutter or is it, Mutter, has no backbone and/or conscience where our kids and families are concerned---none, zero, zilch, nada, nihil so he has nothing to lose.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 1:04 pm

Since this film is totally connected to the ed reform movement's efforts to weaken collective bargaining, use test scores to evaluate teachers, and eliminate tenure for public school teachers, someone should have asked director and co-writer Daniel Barnz about "The Bernstein Affair." His father, Richard Bernstein, was the subject of intense student protests at Yale in March 1965. Yale refused to grant Bernstein tenure because he hadn’t published enough, so his students, who loved his creative teaching, picketed for three days on his behalf. By October of that same year, Yale's president had devised a new plan for tenure procedures.,9171,839378,00.html,9171,941412,00.html

Oh, the irony.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 6:55 pm

Is Nutter the biggest wuss in the world or what, trying to play both sides against the middle. At least emanuel had the guts to speak openly before getting his ass handed to him. Nutter isn't man enough to do that. The movie should be called, "Won't Tell The Truth."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 9:59 am

Does Students First know what a moderator does? Does Michelle Rhee understand that a moderator does not use his position as a bully pulpit for his own agenda?

Thanks to the volunteers who leafletted outside.

Lisa Haver

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 21, 2012 11:51 am

Hi Lisa. Michelle Rhee couldn't even survive as a teacher. She tried, failed and quit. She couldn't run a school district so she was removed from her position of superintendent of Washington's schools. She knows little about teaching and learning and what it means to be a teacher.

Students First is one of several organizations created to promote the Agenda of Privatization of the American schoolhouse. It is about Businessmen First and Politicians First. It is about school governance of the businessmen, by the businessmen, for the businessmen.

It is not even about creating true charter schools.

Senator Williams is funded by groups who want to privatize education for profit. His charter school was a failure and he sent his students to Mastery.

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