Philadelphia students block showing of the reactionary movie 'Won't Back Down' at a meeting of the 'School Reform Commission,' while one SRC member screams that the students should be arrested and are from 'FAILING SCHOOLS'!...

Proving the even the worst ideas have eternal life once they are produced by Hollywood, the corporate "school reform" propaganda movie "Won't Back Down" was on the agenda for the meeting of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission this week on October 15, 2014. The Commission, which was established more than ten years ago by the State of Pennsylvania, recently abrogated the contract with the local teachers union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT). Members of the Philadelphia Student Union moved from their seats during a meeting of the so-called "School Reform Commission" and staged a sit-in in front of the chairs occupied by Commission members during a screening of the teacher bashing and union busting Hollywood propaganda movie "Won't Back Down." "Won't Back Down" came out a year after the charter school movie "Waiting for Superman" and two years before the Hollywood propaganda film about Chicago, "Chicagoland." The students staged their sit in and chanted while the screen showed two of Hollywood's union busting stars, Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, did their propaganda in the background. Neither of the two actresses have apologized to their fellow union members for helping produce the union-busting propaganda film.But instead of watching the propaganda on behalf of the so-called "parent trigger" laws, the public and members of the School Reform Commission got a taste of democracy when dozens of members of the Philadelphia Student Union held a sit in in front of the screen where the movie was showing, chanting "We won't back down, Philly is a union town..."

The URL for the You Tube video of the sit-in, which includes a comment by students because a member of the SRC screamed at them that they were from "failing schools," is:

A three minute You Tube video of the sit-in shows the protest while scenes from the movie run in the background. According to the students, one of the members of the School Reform Commission began screaming at the students that they should all be arrested, and that they were all from "failing schools."

According to a report at Newsworks, a local Philadelphia news service:

"Yesterday evening [October 15, 2014], students from the Philadelphia Student Union disrupted a screening at the School District headquarters of 'Wont Back Down,' a film largely critical of teachers unions and supportive of charter school development.

"The students sat silently in the first few rows of the auditorium, only to break out of their seats about 20 minutes into the film to sit in front of the screen and clap and chant in support of a fair funding formula and against the recent decision by the School Reform Commission to cancel the teachers union contract.

"Members of the surprised audience took out their cell phones and began filming the students while event organizers scrambled around the auditorium attempting to control the situation.

'You kids must be going to a failing school.'

The original poster for the propaganda movie "Won't Back Down" from 2012. The film was released on September 28, 2012 and had one of the worst debuts in Hollywood history, but has been kept alive through privately financed screenings subsidized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and union busting entities like the Philadelphia "School Reform Commission". 'The School Reform Commission decided to show a movie that blames teachers and their unions for the state of public education,' said Avery McNair, an 18-year-old student at Charter High School for Architecture and Design. 'Its the government that should be blamed for the budget deficit, not teachers.'

"The film screening was sponsored by Comcast Internet Essentials and Sylvia Simms, a member of the state-appointed School Reform Commission. As the students chanting continued without pause, a visibly irked Simms told two student protesters: 'You kids must be going to a failing school.'

'She was screaming inches away from my face,' said RubyJane Anderson, an 18-year-old student at Science Leadership Academy. 'She was very upset that we shut down her movie night.'

'Wont Back Down' stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as they confront an urban public school system that is not serving their childrens needs. The film was produced in 2012 by conservative Christian entrepreneur Philip Anschutz, who earlier produced the pro-charter film 'Waiting for Superman' in 2010. The protagonists organize themselves and others to fight against school administrators, bureaucrats and union officials in order to implement a parent trigger, a legal act through which parents of a public school can change the administration of a poorly performing school, typically by transforming it into a charter school.

'Theyre showing a propaganda film in order to manipulate parents to support how the SRC cancelled the teachers contract last week,' said McNair. 'If students dont stand up for themselves and for their teachers, its just going to keep spiraling downward. We deserve the same quality of education as the suburbs.'

"After nearly 15 minutes of protest, the student members of the Philadelphia Student Union marched out of the auditorium and ended their action by walking past eight police officers newly arriving to the scene, leaving a confused and annoyed audience to return to their seats and continue on with their feature presentation.

"Last week, the School Reform Commission voted to unilaterally end the School District's contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and raise teachers health care costs, prompting outcry from public education advocates."

The first superintendent of Philadelphia schools appointed after the School Reform Commission was created was Paul G. Vallas, who took office on Philadelphia in late 2002 after he lost a bid to become the candidate of the Democratic Party for Governor of Illinois. Vallas was appointed by the Commission with the approval of Republican Pennsylvania Governor. Vallas immediately began implementing a corporate "reform" agenda that featured massive privatization, especially by turning over schools to the scandal-plagued Edison Schools Corporation, which made them into charters. Within six months, the charter schools were in chaos because Edison Schools had eliminated staff in the face of the usual problems with urban school districts.

Vallas continued running the Philadelphia schools for two years, until he was dumped by the same people who had hired him after his claim that the district's budget was balanced proved to be a lie. Before Vallas left Philadelphia, local reports also exposed the expensive cronyism that had come to the City of Brotherly Love from Chicago under the guise of the "Paul Vallas Method." Vallas's next stop in his run working for America's corporate "school reform" operators was New Orleans. Most recently, after being driven out of Connecticut, where he was working as superintendent of the Bridgeport schools until it was exposed that he didn't have the credentials to be a superintendent under Connecticut law, Vallas's career was saved by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Quinn selected Vallas to be his candidate for Lieutenant Governor and has been telling voters that he picked Vallas for the number two job in the state because Vallas is an "education expert" and "good on budgets." Quinn has yet to reveal where he got those two ideas, given Vallas's lengthy record.

On of the ironies of the October 2014 action by Philadelphia students is that the propaganda movie "Won't Back Down" has been used against teachers, public schools, and unions since its release in 2012. The movie is set in Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) and depicts its protagonists as heros of a movement to take back "failing schools" from corrupt public education bureaucrats and corrupt union leaders. Widely panned when it was released, "Won't Back Down" received an enormous boost from conservative sources, including $2 million from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which paid for showings to various audiences. The same thing had happened the year before, when millions of corporate dollars went into busing parents to see the propaganda film "Waiting for Superman" in Chicago and other major cities. Both films were made by the same conservative corporation.

Except for subsidized audiences, "Won't Back Down" was a box office failure, but has achieved a second life on the charter school propaganda circuit. The film grossed just $5.3 million at the box office in 2012. According to Box Office Mojo, "Won't Back Down" had the worst opening-weekend performance of any film to open in more than 2,500 theatres -- collecting just $1,035 per screen. [Disclosure: This reporter paid to see the movie the week it came out so I could write about it for Substance. At the time, I didn't realize I was contributing to a record low in box office revenues, but later realized that the movie, like many propaganda films, would achieve a kind of eternal life as long as it was subsidized for screening at right wing activities, including the recent meeting of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission].

For those who want to know more about its melodramatic plot and execution, "Won't Back Down" is a drama film directed by Daniel Barnz starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Holly Hunter. It was released on September 28, 2012. The plot shows "two determined mothers, a car dealer/bartender (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a teacher (Viola Davis), " who look to transform their children's failing inner city school into a charter school. IN order to save the children, they have to challenge a powerful and entrenched education bureaucracy and a corrupt teachers' union president (Holly Hunter) and the school's principal (Bill Nunn), "The film is loosely based on the events surrounding the use of the parent trigger law in Sunland-Tujunga, Los Angeles, California in 2010," according to Wikipedia. "[There' several groups of parents attempted to take over several failing public schools. The Parent Trigger law, which was passed in California and other states in 2010, allowed parents to enforce administrative overhaul and overrule administrators in under-performing public schools if petitioned. If successful, petitions allow parents to direct changes such as dismissal of staff and potential conversion of a school to a charter school." One of the major supporters of the "Parent Trigger" law is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"Won't Back Down" was the second major propaganda movie on behalf of corporate "school reform" and charter schools produced lately by Walden Media. Walden media had previously released a 2010 documentary film "Waiting for Superman" in 2010.

"Private foundations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce contributed more than $2 million for a publicity campaign for the film "Won't Back Down," according to Wikipedia. "Television ads, bookmarks, websites and private screenings a six-month cross-country tour" were utilized to try and promote the movie. Despite all that, the movie failed at the box office and was generally panned by critics (except a handful with right wing views). One of the few who tried to pump the film was Michael Medved who gave it three and a half stars (out of four) and calling it " of the better films of 2012." Michelle Rhee presented the film at separate events near both the Republican and Democratic Party 2012 national conventions several weeks before its theatrical release. Both leading actresses who played in the film are union members benefiting from their union work and the work of their union brothers and sisters when they do their jobs. Neither has apologized for their attacks on teacher unions and public schools since they did the job at "Won't Back Down." In one of many ironies, Viola Davis won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her role as Nona Alberts; and she was nominated for a Black Reel Award for Best Actress for her role in the movie, indicating further the corruption of the NAACP and its capture by its corporate sponsors.


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