School Choice & Charters

Battle Over ‘Won’t Back Down’ Won’t End Anytime Soon

By Sean Cavanagh — September 28, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

“Won’t Back Down,” Hollywood’s fictionalized account of an attempted takeover of a struggling school, opens in theaters today, and the race to define the film as either an triumphant motivational tool for the school-reform set or an cartoonish depiction of teachers and assorted school bureaucrats is well underway.

A “must-see movie,” concludes Jonathan Butcher at the conservative Goldwater Institute, who hopes it will inspire policymakers “to give parents the freedom to turn failing schools into success stories.”

An “extreme example of Hollywood running with its biases,” argues Anne Bryant of the National School Boards Association, who sees the film as a misguided endorsement of parent trigger legislation. “Along with depictions of good teachers and bad teachers,” she writes, “the characterizations of school board members are equally stereotyped.”

A “gripping, emotional, and entertaining film,” says the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, one with the “power to spark a national discussion about how to ensure that America’s public schools deliver education and equity for all students.” The philanthropy urges audiences to see the film, bring a friend, and forward its email.

A vehicle for the movie’s “billionaire backers,” and “right-wing politicians and for-profit firms” to “promote the transformation of the American public school system into a for-profit enterprise,” shouts the the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch.

An “undoubtedly inspiring” film, writes the Center for Education Reform, which plugs the film and the center’s own “parent power index,” an interactive tool meant to tell parents how much power their states afford them—as defined by access to charter and online schools, school choice, and other policies.

A more-nuanced view is offered by the Fordham Institute’s Checker Finn, who says the film periodically slides into cliché-ville, but also gets some things right, particularly the “politics and charged emotions” at work in bad schools weighing major overhauls.

I’m partial to the review offered by my Ed Week colleague Ross Brenneman, who notes that the film defies some of the expectations of fans and critics alike. “There are parent-trigger laws,” he says of the movie. “There are teachers. There is a real place named Pittsburgh. But ‘Won’t Back Down’ is inspired by a true story in the same sense that ‘Gladiator’ was inspired by the true story of Rome existing.”

These folks presumably had advance screenings. I’m inviting you, the ticket-buying public, to post your own reviews here, after you’ve had a look.

Image from “Won’t Back Down,” courtesy Walden Media.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Virtual Charters in Hot Water Again. Accusations of Fraud Prompt $150M Lawsuit
Indiana officials seek to recoup more than $150 million they say was either wrongly obtained or misspent by a consortium of virtual schools.
Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star
2 min read
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. Rokita filed a lawsuit against a group of online charter schools accused of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP
School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty