school management and, therefore, should not be charged with
changing it.
Won’t Back Down closely aligns with the viewpoints of Waiting
for Superman and was attacked by similar critics: “union leaders...
slammed the movie as a propaganda film that bears little resemblance
to reality” (Simon). Weingarten called the film “‘egregiously misleading’
and complained that several scenes seemed designed for ‘the sole
purpose of undermining people’s confidence in public education, public
school teachers, and teacher unions’” (Simon). Parents Across America,
a group that opposes charter schools and standardized testing, blasted
the film saying, “corporate reformers are once again turning to
Hollywood to sell a version of school reform that parents reject”
(Kelly). Many of the critics attacked both the controversial parent
trigger laws and the unrealistic depiction of how the school was
transformed after the parents assumed management control.
Aside from the political divisiveness and resulting backlash
toward Won’t Back Down, it is a fair assessment that the film glosses over
many important details of education reform and gives an unrealistic
portrayal of how difficult it is to reform an underperforming public
school. Toward the end of the film, once the district school board
finally passes Nona and Jamie’s petition to allow them to assume school
management, the film does not show how the school is internally
reformed or how management changes are put into place. Won’t Back
Down does not depict how these parents are able to change a failing,
inner-city school into a welcoming, cheerful place of innovative
learning, which is how the elementary school is depicted in the final
scene. Andrew Kelly wrote, “Won’t Back Down may lead audiences to
imagine that line-dancing, hand-holding parent-teacher collaboration
will be enough to transform awful schools. The narrative allows
filmmakers to avoid the frank but controversial reality that the parent
trigger will most often be used to bring in new operators to take over
failing schools. The big problem, though, is the film’s implicit
suggestion that the parent trigger is a solution in and of itself, if parents
and good-hearted teachers can only wrest control away from the
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