How appropriate that I went to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios after watching the movie Won’t Back down.
They turned out to be quite similar.
HHN, as it is known, features a multitude of haunted houses inhabited by various monsters and demons.
Won’t Back Down (WBD?) features a haunted schoolhouse presided over by a zombie principal and various undead teachers. They entrap children, refuse to let them use the restroom and steal their souls, or at least their futures.
A devoted teacher and loving mom rally the living teachers and try to exorcise the place, only to unleash the true forces of evil – the teacher union bosses. And I won’t spoil the ending if you haven’t seen it.
But let’s just say the children are saved.
Like The Amityville Horror, the events are based on a true story, although not as true as the filmmakers’ first installment in the haunted schools genre – Waiting for Superman.
In general, movie critics thought Won’t Back Down was a little heavy-handed. But then again, critics tend to be a liberal bunch. And there are few things liberals hold more sacred than public schools.
Movies that turn them into monsters probably are predisposed to negative reviews. Whereas movies about corporate and political villains heating up the earth, while a heroic liberal battles them, is predisposed to great reviews, even if that movie was equally heavy handed and the work of the same filmmaker, Davis Guggenheim.
In many circles, I imagine Guggenheim’s focus on education reform makes him a traitor.
Won’t Back Down promotes the concept of parent trigger laws. These laws allow parents to take over long-failing schools. As we saw in the movie, the teacher unions hate the idea because the takeover generally means no more unionized teachers.
And so the unions and other opponents portray trigger laws as part of the ongoing plot to destroy public education.
Supporters say they are a plot to destroy failing public schools, a view I support.
At least in Florida, the outcome of a parent trigger law would be that the trigger never would be pulled. School districts would move heaven and earth before they would allow a school to get a second failing grade, making it eligible for execution.
I’ve seen this happen time and again. A long-failing school gets new leadership and teachers from the district. And before too long, the school starts scoring A’s and B’s on the state’s grading system.
There is absolutely no reason for a school to receive consecutive failing grades.
The main impact of the law would be to bestow more power in the hands of low-income parents, whose children are the ones who end up in bad schools. By necessity, school districts would have to pay more attention to them and react much more quickly whenever their neighborhood schools started to backslide.
A parent trigger law narrowly failed last year in the Florida Senate. Of course the opposition was led by the union, which was backed up by parent groups. The children of these parents attend the very best of public schools and so the parents couldn’t relate to the parents in Won’t Back Down.
If this movie does nothing more than educate people about the plight of low-income kids stuck in abandoned, haunted schools, then I would give it four stars.
About the author
Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet
Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at Mike@excelined.org