Film Industry Helping Ruling Class Destroy Public Education

One of the many funny moments of American government hypocrisy was when the US expressed outrage that the Russian government would take over an independent TV station. The Russian TV station NTV - owned by an oligarch who evenutually fled the country - was very critical of the Russian government's military operations in Chechnya and featured quality political satire shows that are sorely lacking in this country. But once the state took over, the channel replaced bloody battle images with handshakes and smiles as peace and order was suddenly being restored in the breakaway caucus region.

The movie 'Waiting for Superman' is being promoted as part of the privatization attack on public schools and teacher unions.Shame on Russian President Vladimir Putin for using the state to crush an independent media which is so crucial to any thriving democracy. But is it any different here?

Actually, the US government has no complaints with our media which pretty much falls in line with what the state wants. When President George Bush declared war on Iraq, every mainstream paper from the NY Times to the Washington Post couldn't produce enough pro-war stories and editorials to support the illegal invasion. When the Dixie Chicks criticized Bush for invading Iraq, the country stations faithfully pulled their music from the airways, radio profits be damned.

The recent Wikileaks disaster has forced companies like Amazon and Visa to divest of anything connected to the website that released damning information about illegal US government activities around the world.

And today our media is once again lining up to fullfill its duty to carry out the US ruling class interest to destroy and privatize public education in this country. The issue of the year, according to Forbes reporter John Koppisch, was education reform - basing pay for teachers on merit, ending life-time tenure for school employees, closing failing schools and replacing them with charters.

There were three major "independent" documentary films on education reform: "Waiting for Superman" which focused on five grammar students trying to get into a charter school, "The Lottery" which again focused on the lotteries for parents and students to escape the bad public schools and "The Cartel," which concludes that the reason the educational system is so bad here is because of those horrible teacher unions.

Geoffrey Canada (right) of the "Harlem Children's Zone" is one of the most prominent right wingers attacking public education and public employees in the USA today."The Cartel was put together as a labor of love by 41-year-old, Hoboken, N.J., TV journalist Bob Bowdon," Koppisch writes.

"Seizing on the reform zeitgeist, it captured nine film-festival awards and opened in theaters in 25 cities around the country. N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, who’s made a national name for himself by going to battle with the teachers’ union and ushering in a wave of school reforms since taking office last January, saw it twice and—in a YouTube clip in October–gives Bowdon credit for helping him to inspire his education policies."

Waiting for Superman blamed the unions and public education for destroying the dreams of children who are desparately trying to get out of public schools and into charter schools. Their saviour is Michelle Rhee who as CEO of the Washington D.C. public schools went to battle against the union, versus the evil villian Randi Weingarten, who as president of the American Federation of Teachers supports public education and public school teachers (how dare she).

The irony was the one country the film held up as an educational model for the rest of the world was Finland - which has 100% unionized teachers.

Waiting for Superman made a huge splash across the country and even the Chicago Public Schools area offices promoted the film to teachers and some offered buses to take parents and students to see the movie.

This so-called independent film had to have investors with big bucks to promote it so heavily across the country. Gazzillionairs like Bill Gates gushed and awed over the film, and certainly helped fund and promote it.

The Cartel perhaps goes even further in reaching the liberal crowd by exposing corruption in the public sector that connects the teachers unions to school administrators to public officials as the reason why our children have been swindled out of a good education.

"The underbelly is indeed dark, and like the other movies, fingers are pointed directly at the unions, and their unholy alliance with elected officials locally and in state capitals," Koppisch writes. "Teachers’ union campaign contributions that get recycled right back into enormous salaries and gold-plated benefits. School boards dominated by teachers (who work in other towns) and other members of the education establishment. Board elections held separately from other elections in order to keep turnout low and voters unengaged."

One day the director of The Cartel was hosting a call-in cable show and topic was tenure, Koppisch reported.

"'It sounded like something out of a Third World country, a decree that no one could be fired. Then I found that we have that here. And yet people who were intelligent didn't consider that a job for life in this high-tech economy was a preposterous anachronism. I was dumbfounded."

Of course, the fact that college professors get tenure - after a rigorous process that the public school teacher unions should consider taking the lead on promoting - isn't upsetting to this filmmaker. But give him some time when Uncle Sam and Wall Street say the university academics should be next on the hit list.

The director also felt there was an "edict of silence" being forced on people to discourage speaking out about the abuses, Koppisch wrote. But that's the reason teachers have a union, to protect them from possible termination because they need to speak out against such abuses. One teacher who reported a sexual assault at an UNO school and another teacher who reported strip searching at Aspira were both fired easily because they worked at charter schools and had no union to protect them.

Here's another funny part - if only we public school supporters could laugh. The Cartel director reports schools boards dominated by teachers and other members of the education establishment, as something bad. Did he not take a look here at Mayor Daley's control of the schools and his rubber stamped board of directors of mostly millionaire businessmen running the Chicago Public Schools? Actually, this misleading statement about school boards being dominated by teachers was one of the reasons Daley used in 1995 to take complete control of the schools and put business people in charge beholden to corporate interests.

Bowden is a libertarian, Forbes reported, and his film does expose corruption in all sectors which no one can deny - where there is lots of money, there is lots of corruption. But he goes after the unions and not President Obama's Race to the Top that is turning out to be a big fraud demanding more unproven educational experiments on children with charter schools that do no better than the so-called horrific public schools, and more standardized testing that does not promote critical thinking.

This holiday season, sit back and enjoy two very good films that will make you laugh and scratch your head in wonder: "Teachers" with Nick Nolte and "Cheaters" with Jeff Daniels. Trust me, you won't be upset, disillusioned or feel cheated. You will simply laugh, which is something we all need to do a lot more these days.


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