Won’t Back Down REVIEW
I have seen a number of films that focus on the question of teacher’s unions and the quality of education in America. This film takes a look at the experiences of people in inner city schools who believe that their children have been trapped in a cycle of educational dysfunction by uncaring bureaucrats who place the careers of teachers above the success of students. The film tries hard not to draw hard lines between the various interest groups. There are teachers on both sides of the line. There are administrators on both sides of the line. There are parents on both sides of the line. Good and evil runs right down the middle of all of them (I suppose the movie’s great blind-spot involves the children themselves for if there is anything I can say from my own experience, it is that there are children of all ages who align themselves both for and against effective education. They are often injured by apathy in the ranks of teachers, parents, and administrators but they are by no means morally neutral.)
There are many who argue that the problem with education lies in teachers’ unions protecting incompetent teachers (and I have no doubt that this happens sometimes) but I would suggest that the bulletproof shield that has been placed around students themselves has had much more to do with the demise of educational systems than the protections put in place by unions. There are, no doubt, good reasons why the right to corporally punish students was taken away from teachers. There are probably also good reasons why the right to shame students was taken away as well. But from the safety of that cover, there are students that wage war against the system trying to educate them - a war that works to the detriment of their classmates.
I am not sure why we have come to believe that children have no moral obligations while teachers and administrators do but … it seems to be the way it is. What I know is that in the present system, without a union protecting me, I can lose my job to any administrator who wants to look hard enough to discover what I am not doing that I am told I must do (an eighty hour work week at the least if you are going to do it right.) The student who refuses to do his or her work though - they have protections without a union. People who would be fired from any job in the private sector find themselves the recipients of more money, resources, psychologists, personnel here. If they did what they do in school in a private sector job, they would lose those jobs. Their employers would not say “Oh, there is an employee who does almost nothing to profit my company. Let’s spend more money on him.”
In Won’t Back Down I think the parents do the right thing. It is a move towards balance. One can only hope that the pendulum does not swing so far to the other side that teachers become pedagogical fast-food workers, used, exploited, and discarded. It is easy to see how it could happen. Indeed, has happened.
Question for Comment: What is so hard about a union figuring out a way to protect itself from its own incompetence? Why is it so hard to create human systems that parasites cannot hide in?