Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mayor's Feel-Good Movie's Feel-Bad Backstory

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 5:04 AM

In Monday's City Paper, Joey Garrison has a story about a screening of the film Won't Back Down here in Nashville at the end of the month.

[Mayor] Dean, in a statement, said films such as Won’t Back Down help foster discussion on the “education challenges we face in the country and ways to improve public education.” He added, “One critical factor in improving the quality of our schools is by engaging and empowering families.

“For me, this is less about parent trigger laws and more about having a productive discussion on education reforms such as charter schools,” Dean said.

OK, but the mayor does understand that Won't Back Down is a fictional movie, right? So, the educational challenges in the movie may or may not exist in real life, and the solutions to those challenges may or may not work in real life, and they may or may not map easily onto the challenges we face here in Nashville.

A movie's first goal has to be telling a story that will put butts in seats, not historical accuracy. I mean, Braveheart is a good story, but it's terrible history—no 3-year-old girl had William Wallace's secret baby, for instance.

And while there's not a whole lot of plot summary available for Won't Back Down yet, I think it's safe to say that in the movie, these parent trigger laws must be made to seem like a great solution for failing schools. In real life, though? The school the movie is loosely based on, Mount Gleason Middle School in Los Angeles, doesn't seem to have actually enacted any parent triggered reforms. In this story from January about a second school facing parent trigger, EdSource reports, "Until today, parents at McKinley Elementary School in Compton were the only ones to even file a 'parent trigger' petition, let alone force a transformation of their school."

So, whatever glorious thing was supposed to have happened at Mount Gleason Middle School in order to inspire this movie that should be the basis for our discussions of education reform ... doesn't actually seem to have happened. Oops.

And, between the teacher who takes pictures of students' butts and the teacher who sends little girls home for wearing the wrong color leggings, it sounds like Mount Gleason Middle School is still waiting around for its Hollywood happy ending.

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