In case you haven’t heard, the movie is about two mothers, a bartender and a teacher, who butt heads with a powerful and corrupt school district and teacher’s union in an effort to “transform” their children’s failing school.
If you thought social security and Medicare were the third rails of politics, this issue is the power grid. There isn’t a parent out there today – Democrat or Republican – who is happy over the current state of public education in America, and rightly so. And while it’s correct to say that this movie paints and unfair portrayal of the problems that best the system itself and then adds insult to injury by over simplifying the solution, the potential pull and sway it will have on movie goers could be enormous.
Remember the uproar over “Lean on Me?” That was the movie where Morgan Freeman played Joe Louis Clark, a radical principal of a New Jersey school that was in danger of being taken over by the state because of poor student test scores. Clark proceeded to expel students – the majority of which were suspected drug pushers – whom he felt were preventing other students from succeeding in class. Once expelled, a student was banned from reentering the school.
While Clark’s methods were highly controversial, drawing both praise and condemnation all at the same time, they ultimately proved to be successful. The school did eventually turn around its performance and avoid a state takeover.
But, more importantly, the movie hit a raw nerve with the public. The image of a failed school, where students’ needs came second to preserving the power structure, rubs an awful lot of people the wrong way. And some of those people are Democrats.
My guess is that “Won’t Back Down” will do the same when it opens this month. Critics are already assailing the movie as biased against teachers unions. That may well be true; it is also quite irrelevant. When it comes to children’s education the one thing Republicans and Democrats have in common is their commitment to it.
If I’m the DNC and the Obama Administration, I’d stay as far away from this movie as humanly possible. This is a potential lose, lose for them. Whether it’s fair or not, the fact is that there are incompetent teachers who are still in the system today and, thanks to teacher tenure laws, there is very little that can be done to remove them. This does NOT sit well with parents. The last thing Democrats need this week is to be caught blasting a movie that, while overly simplistic and melodramatic, nonetheless makes an effective pitch to millions of voters. There’s toxic and then there’s toxic on steroids. Guess which one this issue is?
In an election that could well be decided by less than a million votes – in some states by as little as several thousand – every vote counts. Now would not be a good time to piss any of them away.