I have a 4-year-old and live in Chicago where public school teachers are currently on strike. For me, there is no better time to think about the state of our nation’s schools.
I always heard that managing your child’s schooling options and decisions while living in a city was challenging. I had no idea. Mini Whipped is four years old and we are pleased that she has started her second year at a Greek bilingual preschool. However, for more than a year, we have been researching, applying and pining over where she will start Kindergarten a year from now.
Our process of discovery has been one of disappointment and distress. We are educated parents with means living in one of the largest cities in the world and we cannot easily secure a good education for our daughters. When I was contacted by Circle of Mom‘s about seeing and reviewing the new Fox Studios movie, Won’t Back Down, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only am I interested in the subject matter, this busy mom drools over the prospect of sitting quietly in the dark for two hours cradling a tub of buttery popcorn.
When I was in college, a few of my friends studied film. They would rent Clockwork Orange and old Edgar Allen Poe movies. Favorites were watched and watched again while fine details of cinematography and lighting were discussed. I was sort of jealous of their artsy analysis. Over the years, I’ve realized that though I love movies, there isn’t a professional film critic within. What I know about movies is how they make me feel and what I think about (if anything) after I’ve watched them.
Won’t Back Down has an impressive cast of strong, Hollywood ladies. Maggie Gyllenhaal is bubbly and energetic and Viola Davis is perfect at holding back smiles so long that when her nose finally wrinkles with glee, you can’t help but light up and breathe a sigh of relief. It was the old faces that really excited me. Rosie Perez and Holly Hunter, where have you been hiding those distinct voices all these years?! Welcome back to the big screen.
The movie is about a poor mother (Gyllenhaal) and an exhausted teacher (Davis) who decide to work together to turn around their school. The system is defunct and most have been beaten into submission. Their crusade takes a raw look at the problems with the educational system: loads of bureaucracy, bad teachers, the expense of private schools and deflated parents. Surprisingly, there is quite a sharp focus on the teacher’s union and more of its role as part of the problem rather than the solution.
If you have read the national news, you may know that Chicago teachers are on strike right now. Just days after seeing this movie my city erupted into the spotlight with similar issues. I don’t have answers to the problems and haven’t yet formed enough of an opinion to choose a side. What I know, and what was expressed in this movie, is that we must start putting our children first. Their needs can’t wait while our very broken systems are fixed.
For my family, we are finding that even if you are able to pay for private school, you need to wait in line to do so. Offering to get involved and volunteer does not secure you a spot. Lotteries and gifted testing can get kids into good public schools but they are not guarantees. We have gone so far as to consider uprooting our lives and moving to a new city to ensure that our girls have a safe, comprehensive education. If this is how hard it is for us, I can’t imagine how oppressed those with less options and means must feel.
Like many Hollywood films, Won’t Back Down is predictable and tosses in a touch of romance for good measure. What I appreciate is that it focuses on a timely subject and it pushes touchy issues a bit further than I would have expected. Overall, it got me thinking. And, I hope that Won’t Back Down gets a lot of other people thinking. What are each of us, as individuals, going to do to secure a better future for all our children?
Won’t Back Down opens in theaters nationally on September 28.
Whipped aims to provide unbiased editorials and all the opinions are my own. However, I wish to disclose that I received some compensation for the review.