Friday, September 7, 2012

Being a blogger has definitely introduced me to some new products and experiences that I wouldn't have had access to otherwise.  Last night, I got to attend a preview of a new movie, thanks to my friends at Circle of Moms.  Not only did they invite me and a friend to see the new movie, Won't Back Down, before it's in theaters, but they gave me a gift card to help offset the costs associated with a night out.

I normally pass up any opportunity that does not fit within the scope of what I regularly write about, so I was unsure about taking them up on their offer.  I watched the preview, though, and saw that the theme of the movie fits in with what I do, so I went.  

Like so many food-allergy moms, I became a fierce mama bear when my son was diagnosed with this dangerous health condition.  I immersed myself in learning all that I could, both about food allergies and also about what I could do to make his life easier. To make his life better.  I have fought the school bureaucracy to ensure his safety, and I have worked with friends and coaches and teachers to educate them and enlist their aid in keeping him healthy and included.

The story of the movie, Won't Back Down, is the story of two moms who become fierce advocates for their children's welfare, too.  Their challenge is a different one than the one I face, but their zeal in protecting their children hit home.  When confronted with a failing school, these moms do everything they can to improve their children's lives.  Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis play the women who lead the effort to "take over" their school.  Not surprisingly, they were both wonderful.

I was saddened, however, at how simplistic the movie made the extremely complicated issue of schools that don't meet expectations.  The movie has a very black-and-white way of addressing what's wrong with education today and who's to blame, rather than portraying the extraordinarily complex factors that contribute to challenges facing impoverished urban schools.  

The primary villain in the movie is the teachers' union.  (Should a movie about teaching really have a villain?)  Admittedly, this is a raw nerve for me right now.  I live in Chicago, and there is a very real possibility that our teachers will go on strike on Monday for the first time in 25 years.  I stand with our teachers and their demands for a fair contract and better conditions in which to effectively teach our children.  

Also, both my husband and my sister are Chicago public school teachers.  They devote a great deal of time, emotion, and money to help their children have the best experiences at school as they can provide.  Just like thousands of other teachers all around the country, they have invested in furthering their education in their respective teaching fields.

There is a trend today to blame teachers, and the unions who protect their rights, when schools aren't succeeding.  In my opinion, that is a shame.  These are the people who are putting themselves out there trying to make things better.  Trying to reach our children.  Trying to do the best with sometimes limited resources and in challenging environments.  We could be spending that same divisive energy looking for ways to better support our teachers, our schools, our parents and children, and our communities.  

My friend and I came away from the movie liking the women who Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis portrayed, but feeling fairly manipulated by the movie itself. 

As I mentioned, I was compensated for giving a review, but the opinions in this post are my own.

Thank you,


  1. Kim, I was looking forward to seeing the movie since I first heard about it. After reading your review, I'm really looking forward to it. It's a complex issue, for sure - my husband is a former public school teacher and I'm a former public school student, so school movies always grab us.

  2. I bet it did hit a nerve! Thanks for review. Still want to see the movie and hope the point that change is possible overshadows the lesser point of who the villian is perceived to be. Stacy Snyder,