RESISTANCE CINEMA Presents “THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH BEHIND WAITING FOR SUPERMAN” Real Reform Studios and A Grassroots Education Movement Production, produced, directed, filmed and edited by Julie Cavanagh (teacher), Darren Marelli (school social worker), Norm Scott (retired teacher), Mollie Bruhn (teacher), and Lisa Donlan (parent). narrated by Julie Cavanagh, Brian Jones, & Daren Marelli, (2011, 66 min)
WHEN: Sunday July 24, 2011 1:15 pm
WHERE: Community Church NY Gallery Room 28 East 35th st. btwn Park and Madison Aves.
ADMISSION: Free, donations appreciated
SPECIAL GUEST: There will be a post screening Q&A with Brian Jones, narrator and NYC teacher
In 2010 writer and director Davis Guggenheim, the director of the influential “An Inconvenient Truth”, featuring Al Gore, turned his attention to the issue of public education in America and produced the film “Waiting For Superman”. The film was widely acclaimed in the mainstream press, praised lavishly by the White House and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and, particularly with its sympathetic portrait of Charter schools, met with much enthusiasm from those in the corporate driven “education reform movement”.
The response from many teachers, parents, and students was another matter. For them, it was a salvo against the public education system with the long view of eventually privatizing it, an attack on the Teacher’s Union as a central obstacle blocking reform, and the inevitable acceptance of standardized testing as the essential measure of accountability.
In “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman” a group of New York City teachers and parents came together not only to counter claims made in the film that they have found inaccurate, but to offer a powerful rebuttal to the film’s philosophy. Or as they say on the film’s website :
“We reject “Waiting for Superman” and the privatization of PUBLIC Education by hedge fund millionaires and corporate interests. PUBLIC Education is not for sale!”
TITBWFS begins intensely with an opening scene of NYC students angrily chanting against the Department Of Education (DOE). While the intensity undergoes various permutations and variations throughout the film, it never really lets up. This is an impassioned film that takes place in a city that has seen an intense struggle in the public education policy. When Mayor Michael Bloomberg took control of city schools in 2002 and appointed Joel Klein as Schools Chancellor the battles began but when he appointed Cathie Black, a highly successful corporate CEO in the publishing business but with no connection or experience in education as his replacement in 2010, the uproar and lines of resistance were ferocious. She lasted just 95 days as her problems with parents, teachers, and students seemed overwhelming and irresolvable.
This is the emotional cauldron in which the film takes place. While NYC teachers Brian Jones and Julie Cavanagh are the central protagonists, an ample platform is given to parents, students, and teachers, to address the top down corporate CEO model of organizing education verses a participatory approach integrating parents and community. They take on the issues surrounding Charter Schools, teachers and tenure, standardized high stake testing, the closing rather than improving of public schools that are doing poorly, the co-location of Charters with public schools creating competition for space between the two, and other consequences.
The film has its villains both local and national; Mayor Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Cathie Black, the head of Harlem’s Charter school Goeffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee the ex-head of public schools on Washington D.C. who was eventually rejected by D.C. voters, President Obama and Arne Duncan who both enthusiastically embrace the charters, and the various billionaires who lobby Washington and have invested fortunes in bringing a far right ideological agenda into the education debate.
Diane Ravitch, the ex Under Secretary of Education who once supported the Charter school movement but who now is one of its most ardent critics, is heralded as one of the film’s heroes, along with Karen Lewis of the Chicago UFT, Sam Anderson a NYC teacher and education activist, or parent Leonie Haimson. But as the title of the film’s central theme song says “The Hero Is You”. That is, there is no superman coming to save us. It’s up to the people watching the film who care about the fate of public education to get active, organize, and engage in one of the key struggles of our times.
BRIAN JONES is a teacher, actor and activist in New York City. He has been a public elementary school teacher in Harlem for eight years. Jones is on the board of directors of the non-profit organization, Voices of a Peoples History of the United States, founded by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove, and has lent his voice to several audiobooks, including Zinn’s one-man play, Marx in Soho (Haymarket Books). He also writes a column on racism, civil rights, and education for the left-wing website SocialistWorker.org.