That’s right. You heard me. Teachers are terrorists. That is what former President George W. Bush said. Well, not in so many words. He labeled teachers’ unions ‘terrorist’ organizations. Terrorist organizations: teachers’ unions. Of course, teachers, with their ever so powerful unions, make tons of money, for only working part of the year, and have so many little vacations, within that work year, that, certainly, they must be terrorists. The stupidity of this is very like every public figure, who didn’t wear a white sheet in the 1950s, being labeled a communist by the John Birch Society.
The comparison is not lost, here. The John Birch Society was founded by Charles and David Koch’s own father, and is continued to be funded by them, along with Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, and the TEA Party. Two recent films have won the Koch Brothers’ support: a documentary, Waiting For Superman (2010) and a sort of reverse To Sir With Love, Won’t Back Down (2012). Waiting For Superman was directed by Davis Guggenheim, famed as the creator of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, an appearingly well intentioned work, though so lacking in scientific realities, that it could be questioned as a tool for discrediting its own thesis.
The film, Waiting For Superman, simplifies problems in modern American education as being nothing more than incompetent, uncaring teachers who are protected by powerful unions. Unions are demonized as the destroyers of American public education. Here we go again! Unions bad. Free market good. Privatisation is the only answer. Yep! The only answer to all the problems in American education is to ensure that Charlie and Dave make more money. That’ll fix everything. As anyone with half an ounce of sense can see, American society has declined, along with American production, directly as a result of Reagan’s unrelenting assault on organized labour. Outsourcing, selling domestic business to overseas buyers and locales, couldn’t have been possible, had unions remained strong. The demise of the American unions is the demise of the American middle class. Then, of course, that is the goal of the Kochs and their ilk. America don’t need no stinking middle class. The gap between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie needs to widen, rather than be blurred.
Of course, the evil villain of Waiting for Superman is Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. The hero is everyone’s favorite, Michelle Rhee, former superintendent of Washington, DC’s public schools, renowned for her anti-union bias, now head of StudentsFirst. Rhee is so highly regarded that Time pictured her, on its cover, dressed in black, scowling, and holding a broom, in a very witch-like pose. The image was not lost on the American public, though it is now forgotten by most. StudentsFirst lobbies for free market principles to be applied to education, and blames unions for every problem American education faces. The mentalities, seen in Waiting For Superman, are the identical principles endorsed by the Kochs and the one percent. Destroy unions and allow the market to answer every problem. The market answered Wall Street’s crises, didn’t it? One needs to question patronizing any of Guggenheim’s films.
Won’t Back Down, distributed by 20th Century Fox, stars Maggie Gyllenhaal in, as already stated, a kind of reverse To Sir With Love, the classic 1960s era film, which starred Sidney Poitier, as a dedicated educator, working in a depressed, inner city school, with little or no budget. Due to Poitier’s character’s caring and dedication, the plot of the film was uplifting, and had a happy ending. This is unlike Won’t Back Down, where Gyllenhaal portrays a concerned mother, who leads a pitchfork wielding mob of parents against school administrators, forcing the turning their ‘failing’ school into a privately managed charter school. Naturally, Gyllenhal’s efforts are opposed by the thuggish teachers’ union. Rather than showing a dedicated and caring union member educator turning students’ lives around, as in the case of Poitier, Gyllenhaal makes the case that teachers are incompetent, administrators are uncaring, and unions are evil. The only answer is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Like Guggenheim, Gyllenhaal’s character must be called into question, for accepting this role. Remembering an old union song, one must ask Ms. Gyllenhaal, “Which side ore you on?” Then again, wouldn’t she belong to the Screen Actors Guild? Of course, so did Ronald Reagan. Nixon was a Quaker, too. So much for affiliations. The difference between Won’t Back Down and To Sir With Love may have a lot to do the lead actors’ private lives. Sydney Poitier, along with Harry Belafonte, was quietly very active in the American civil rights movement. As in the case of Mr. Guggenheim, patronizing Ms. Gyllenhaal’s films is called into question.
Koch involvement in Won’t Back Down is seen in its heavy promotion by the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, ALEC, and the Chamber of Commerce. Monies from these groups provided screenings in most major US cities. Rhee presented the film at both Democratic and Republican conventions. The Koch Brothers and their minions represent an attack on government, in general, an attack designed to eliminate taxes on the rich, removal of all regulation, and all protection of the environment. Their attack on education is only part of a much larger scheme.
Both films are the product of Walden Media, owned by Phil Anschutz, publisher of the Washington Examiner and the Weekly Standard. Anschutz is a financial supporter of Right to Work legislation and a backer of Americans for Prosperity. In keeping with JBS Dominionist ideology, Anschutz also supports the homophobic Mission America Foundation, and the Discovery Institute, which refutes evolution as false doctrine. Aside from Anschutz’ involvement, Americans must be aware of Bill Gates’ connection to Waiting For Superman. Gates’ demand of cutting of teachers’ pensions, and his endorsement of the film, is exceeded by his benevolent donation of monies to the national PTA, which, not surprisingly also endorsed it. Follow the money. If you wish to control people, donate money to them. So, because of donated money, PTAs are willing to cut their own teachers’ throats.
Waiting For Superman was a very well produced and artfully created film. With the money behind it, and a stellar production crew, how could it miss? Critics lauded it. Oprah Winfrey endorsed it. President Barack Obama not only praised it, but his education secretary, Arne Duncan, spearheaded an educational reform agenda which aligns perfectly with the film.
The one percent is well schooled in the art of propaganda. Film is an adroit weapon for moulding the minds and opinions of the American public. Once, America could boast of a system which provided quality education for all. It served Bill Gates well. Now, that system is being barraged with underfunding and unending testing, to no end, save corporate profit. Flanked on its sides by Michelle Rhee, et al, the American education system is in danger of going the way of the dinosaur, if Americans refuse to wake up and smell the coffee. With the demise of public education, American citizens are doomed to further lose their critical thinking skills, be more easily controlled, and be force fed a corporate agenda. Home of the brave, land of the free? No. Home of the sheep, easily led.
- “Go Public” – Finally, A Film That Celebrates Public Schools (alternet.org)
- A New Film That Celebrates the Success of Public Schools (dianeravitch.net)
- Beware of Sophistical Education “Reformers” (crisismagazine.com)
- Queen Latifah to Host and Narrate ‘Teach’, a New Two Hour Special Celebrating Teachers in America on CBS (tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com)
- Michelle Rhee wants to talk education reform with Alabama teachers (al.com)
- How the ALEC Agenda Forced Chicago’s School Closings (readersupportednews.org)