It’s not often that a Hollywood movie both entertains and helps parents learn about another option to improve their children’s education. The film Won’t Back Down which opened everywhere last Friday, does both.

Inspired by actual events, it’s the story of a third-grade student trapped in a failing public school. Unable to afford a private education, her mother, played by actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, learns about parent trigger laws, now the reality in seven states, which allow parents to take control of such schools and institute improvements.

Gyllenhaal enlists the help of a dedicated teacher in her daughter’s school, played by actress Viola Davis, to jump through the myriad of hoops put in their way. Together, they learn how to fight not only the bureaucracy, but the powerful teachers union, personified by actress Holly Hunter.

The film explores the complex relationships among good teachers, bad teachers, and a union whose leader once famously said he’d represent the interests of school children when they started paying union dues. Poor parents who want the best for their children are given a glimpse of the educational choices that those with political power are able to make.

Surprisingly, the good guys aren’t all good, and the bad guys aren’t all bad, in this multi-layered drama. Parents, taxpayers, and movie fans alike will find Won’t Back Down worth the ticket price. See it soon.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

One thought on “Won’t Back Down

  1. In my varied experience looking at schools in a number of countries, one sterling fact comes out. Bright children with caring parents WILL LEARN whatever the classroom does or does not provide. When I was working in Sri Lanka (75-77) some courses at the principal university in Colombo were conducted at the race track in rooms once used to stable horses and feed. The country was an economic shambles stemming from 28 yrs of a Marxist coalition govt. Facilities in school from 1st grade onward were dreadful. Yet these same high schools and colleges tirned out well educated young people. They seemed especially talented in mathematics.

    As in India where I also worked parents made every possible sacrifice for their children’s education. Even people living in the streets made certain their children were in a school of some kind. But in spite of their poverty these were two parent families providing stability and support and an exceptionally bright child was given every possible opportunity and support the poor could scrape together. Children who were less schlastically capable were put out to learn a trade. Their systems did not waste time and their meagre resources trying to pound algebra into the heads of kids unable to master mathematics or the sciences.

    But here? Far too many single parent families, and unwillingness to provide the requisite nurture and encouragement all children need in order to develop. The “system” seems to act as if learning was mainly about money, and unrelated to sociological factors surrounding the child. Truly, the family is the foundation of every healthy society. Ours is crumbling and the failure of kids to learn has much less to do with classrooms and resources than the total environment impacting the children including Hollywood and TV and facebook, etc.

    America has become a great nation of whiners and buck passers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *