points. After reviewing both films, education reporter Joy Resmovtis
wrote that both Superman films “tell only half a story. It leaves one with
a desire for a third film, one that can rise above the rhetorical fray
and occasional screaming that too often characterizes the education
debate.” When Walden Media (the company that produced Waiting for
Superman) and 20th Century Fox announced the production of a fiction
film about education reform, interested parties were curious to see how
this film would portray the nuanced and interrelated conflicts of the
education debate and whether or not the movie would present a
balanced portrayal.
The result was the major motion picture Won’t Back Down (2012)
about two concerned mothers who want to reform their children’s
failing, public elementary school. It is a star-studded film in which
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays single mother Jaime Fitzpatrick, whose
dyslexic daughter is struggling to learn to read, and Viola Davis’s
character, Nona Alberts, is a burned out teacher at the school, who
knows that her son and other students deserve more. The two strong
female leads combine forces to fight the school bureaucracy, the district
school board, and the teacher’s union in an attempt to take over
management of the failing school.
The premise of Won’t Back Down’s storyline is loosely based on
parent trigger laws, which exist only in certain states. Parent trigger laws
are a legal maneuver that allows parents of students attending a failing
school to petition to change the school’s management and
administration in some cases turning them into charter schools. In
order to do this, the petition must have majority support from parents
with children attending the school and then be approved by the
district’s board of education. Parent trigger laws are quite a
controversial topic in the educational reform realm because of
pushback from teachers unions, whose representatives believe that this
type of legal maneuver will endanger the job protection rights of
teachers. There are also many reformists who oppose these initiatives,
claiming that parents do not understand the complexities of public
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