You’re Invited to a Private Screening

Are you in an ethical quandary about seeing the new “Won’t Back Down” movie? Perhaps you are angry about the film’s parent-trigger agenda and that it’s set in Pittsburgh claiming to be inspired by true events – that never actually happened here – but you still want to see the movie so you can be fully informed without contributing to these ultra-right filmmakers’ box office receipts? [See “We Won’t Back Down, Either” for the gory details about who made this movie and why.] Here’s the solution to your dilemma:

The Pittsburgh Public School district, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, and A+ Schools are hosting a private screening of “Won’t Back Down” on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 6:00 PM. The viewing will take place at South Side Works Cinema. Seating is limited and will be reserved on a first come basis with parents and teachers given priority. RSVP HERE

There will be a brief panel discussion after the film moderated by the Rev. John Welch from PIIN (PA Interfaith Impact Network SW), who is also Vice President for Student Services and Dean of Students at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Panelists will include:

  • Nina Esposito-Visgitis, President, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
  • Carey Harris, Executive Director, A+ Schools
  • Dr. Linda Lane, Superintendent, Pittsburgh Public Schools
  • Randy Testa, Vice President of Education and Professional Development, Walden Media

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why we would give anyone from Walden Media 12 seconds of our time, especially since the entire previous two hours of the movie will be “their” message – complete with tear-jerking sound track and a feel-good story. Heck, who doesn’t want to root for the single mom who sticks up for her kid’s educational needs? Who doesn’t love a good story about a white woman and a black woman coming together and beating the big bad system? We all love a good underdog tale.

But Philip Anschutz and his Walden Media are not interested in what real parent engagement looks like in our public schools. They are selling privatization – turning over our public schools to private corporations in the name of corporate-style “reform.” There’s a reason the parent-trigger law is becoming known as the parent-tricker law: in California where it was first introduced, the law fooled many parents into thinking they were taking (more) control of their local schools. But scores of parents there cried foul after realizing the way outside operatives had been sent into their communities and lied to them. Closing down public schools and handing them over to private charter companies destroys a public good, forever (while enriching those corporations at tax-payer expense).

Walden Media’s Randy Testa, who has taught third grade and has an Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has made it clear that these movies are designed as propaganda. In an interview earlier this year, he explained, “We have also recently made Walden’s tacit commitment to education more explicit. We co-produced the recent documentary about education, “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and we have a film coming out this fall, a drama not a documentary, called “Won’t Back Down” about two mothers –one a teacher—who come together to change their local school. … A good story gets people talking –and maybe even doing.” [Ploughshares Literary Magazine, 2-24-12]

Indeed. There’s mighty power in pop-culture, and Walden Media knows it. I hope Linda Lane, Nina Esposito-Visgitis, and Carey Harris come out swinging in defense of public education on October 3rd. We need to make sure people are “talking and maybe even doing” alright, just as Testa says – talking and doing something about this slick effort to sell school privatization, that tells lies about Pittsburgh, and attempts to introduce parent-tricker laws here in Pennsylvania. Let’s all be there on October 3rd to demonstrate what meaningful parent engagement in our schools looks like and that we here in the grassroots intend to keep fighting for public education as a public good.

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