"Won't Back Down" is a huge flop at the box office. No surprise there, given that it's an insubstantial view of what the issues in education reform are really about. But it seems that the film probably wasn't made for general viewing anyway, given how it's currently being used.
The US Chamber of Commerce has launched a nationwide tour they call "Breaking the Monopoly of Mediocrity" in education. They should have just called it "Break Teachers and Bash the Unions," because that's really what the purpose is. From their recently-launched website:
The 'Breaking the Monopoly of Mediocrity' tour will include:
- An interactive forum of local business leaders, educators, and community leaders facilitated by education reform policy experts and practitioners. Participants will have an opportunity to strategize with other leaders in the community on the best ways to implement change.
- A screening of the film with Won’t Back Down—a story of a single mother’s struggle to create meaningful change in her daughter’s chronically failing school.
- Key resources, including a customized fact sheet detailing relevant education and workforce data of the community.
I'm sure it's not a coincidence that the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post came out yesterday with an editorial saying that Won't Back Down should be nominated for an Academy Award. Rupert has no shame in promoting his own prospects for big profits in privatized education through his own publications and non-profits like Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst outfit, but this editorial is particularly shameless:
‘Won’t Back Down” for Best Picture?
Why not? The school-based drama, which opened last weekend, boasts a sterling cast, including Academy Award nominees Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
More important, it sends a valuable message about US schools — and unions.
Indeed, that it’s drawn the acid-laced enmity of American Federation of Teachers boss Randi Weingarten tells you all you need to know: Give this flick an Oscar now.
Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York Department of Education, loves Won't Back Down, too. Gosh, I wonder if that has anything to do with his gig running Murdoch's corporate education division? Klein's recent interview with Techcrunch echoes all of the US Chamber's talking points:
Our own Gregory Ferenstein asked Klein about why he thought that the education space isn’t being disrupted by the Internet as quickly as other markets. In Klein’s view, it’s the fact that education is still, for the most part, a “state-run monopoly” that resists change as much as possible.
Despite this assessment, Klein still said that he is more enthusiastic about online education than ever before. In his view, now is the time for those who are developing education apps to engage. “Nothing comes easy in K-12,” though, he noted. There is, after all, very little incentive for the incumbents in this space to change.
Analytics and assessment, is seems, is really what Klein is focusing on. The biggest mistake we’ve made so far, he thinks, is that we have focused so much on technology but not enough on assessment. Different kids, after all, learn in different ways and at different speeds. But with enough analytics, we should be able to better personalize the education experience.
Oh, look! It's more Bill Gates argle-bargle! Yes, there's certainly space in K-12 education for the Internet and technology, but this notion that assessments can be microtargeted down to the differences between the kid with ADHD and the kid with a reading disability is just nonsense. Yes! That's what we need, more testing.
Those "assessments" obviously bring a very large revenue stream into corporate balance sheets, which is why they're relentlessly pimped at every opportunity. What they do not do is give provable data as to how children learn or why they are not meeting arbitrary standards that are not necessarily accurate reflections of what a child knows or does not know.
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