I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Teachers Rock 2012": An Insult To Teachers

This was published 8/13/12; I'm changing the date to keep it at the top of the blog. Extra contact info below. If you have more, add it in the comments - commenters have already posted a lot of great information below! If you tweet, add the Twitter address for the concert: @TeachersRock12 

Tomorrow there will be a concert in Los Angeles called "Teachers Rock 2012." Portions will be broadcast on CBS this Friday.

The entire thing is an insult to teachers. No one who cares at all about teachers should watch, and we should all be demanding that the stars who have aligned themselves with this thing immediately pull out and disavow any connection to it. Here's why:

- "Teachers Rock 2012" is a promotional scheme for the upcoming anti-teacher movie, Won't Back Down. As Parents Across America explains:
But the storyline about the parent takeover has no resemblance to reality, says New York parent activist Leonie Haimson, a PAA co-founder. “The movie is supposedly based on a process called the ‘parent trigger,’ which purports to empower parents. But actually, the ‘parent trigger’ has a track record of 100 percent failure, and has pitted parents against parents and torn apart school communities at the two schools where it has been tried,” said Haimson. She points out that “Won’t Back Down” was produced by Walden Media, owned by conservative mogul Philip Anschutz, a major donor to anti-gay, creationist and other right-wing causes. Walden Media was the co-producer of the 2010 anti-public-education pseudo-documentary ‘Waiting for ‘Superman’.”


Grannan’s detailed comparison of the film version to real events can be found on here on the PAA web site. [emphasis mine]
- Won't Back Down is an entirely fictional account of the use of the "parent trigger" to convert public schools into charter schools. Professor Bruce Baker of Rutgers University has outlined the potential abuses of the parent trigger:
I wrote about a week ago on how some charter schools, like North Star Academy in Newark have established themselves as the equivalent of elite magnet schools – potentially engaging in activities such as pushing out lower performing kids over time.
So, my question for the day is whether these “parent trigger” policies might allow a simple majority of parents – or some defined majority share – to force a reorganization of their neighborhood school into a charter – that would subsequently weed out those other “less desirable kids?”
Baker expands on that idea in this post. Parents Across America has more facts about the parent trigger here.

- "Teachers Rock 2012" is sponsored by Walmart, the retailer owned by the Walton family. The Walton Family Foundation gave out $159 million in support charter schools and vouchers, neither of which have been shown to improve achievement when accounting for student characteristics. Walmart is one of the most anti-union corporations in America and the Walton Family promotes an anti-union, democracy distorting agenda.

- One of the three groups that will receive proceeds from the concert is Teach For America. TFA has encouraged churn in the teaching corps because of the high attrition rate of its teachers. Critics - including those who participated in the program - contend TFA recruits are inadequately prepared to teach in the most difficult schools. Diane Ravitch shares more about TFA.

It's clear to me that the celebrities who have attached their names to "Teachers Rock 2012" have no idea what they've gotten themselves into. It's especially disheartening to see that many of them are members of unions - like Actors Equity, the American Federation of Musicians, or AFTRA - and yet they are willing to get behind a project with a barely concealed anti-union agenda.

Among the listed performers:
Politely tell them what you think about their participation in this anti-teacher, anti-union production.

Here's a nice piece about Teachers Rock 2012 spelling out its anti-union and anti-teacher point of view.

UPDATE: I assume all of the stars of Won't Back Down are members of SAG-AFTRA - the AFL-CIO affiliated union for screen actors. Why in the hell are our fellow union members participating in an exercise in union bashing?

Holly Hunter's involvement is particularly galling; she was one of the original signers of the Solidarity Campaign when an actor's strike was looming in 2008.

So she was all for union solidarity when it affected her career. But when it affects teachers? Meh...

ADDING: Jose Vilson lays it all out nicely.

Diane Ravitch has more. Here's a comment from her post:

OK—so here’s what I’ve been able to find out as far as ways to contact people. I think it’s wonderful to use all types of media—Twitter, Facebook, whatever—but the more personal, the more influential. So, if you feel comfortable making phone calls, keep trying that way. Send emails, tell friends, use friends’ emails (j/k), every way you can to get this message to these folks.

1. Dave Grohl: Manager—Gabby at 323-856-8222
2. Adam Levine: Receptionist will take message at 310-776-7640
3. Jack Black: email tosjackson_asst@WMEentertainment.com
4. Meryl Streep: publicist’s voice mail at 212-277-7555
5. Viola Davis: email to ewolff@apanewyork.com
6. Morgan Freeman: email to stan@sra-pr.com

Here’s a little script I wrote for phone calls, easily adaptable to email:
My name is ______________________ (Caitlin Casement) and I am ______________________ (a 25 yr veteran teacher from Los Angeles). I heard that _________________ was participating in the “Teachers Rock” event. I wanted him/her to know that I feel his/her participation would have NEGATIVE effects for public schools. I am very glad that he/she cares about the teachers in our public schools, but one of the organizations benefitting from this event has done serious harm to the teaching profession—Teach for America. Like performing, teaching is a difficult and demanding profession, requiring more than just talent but years of serious study and practice. I know how hard ______________________ works to make every performance special for the audience. Teachers perform for some of the toughest audiences every day. It’s not for amateurs. Teach for America gives the impression that teaching can be a short-term, low-skilled job that can be learned in weeks. That hurts the teaching profession and has a direct effect on children’s lives. Please let ______________________ know that I hope he/she will reconsider participating in this event.

Remember, we don’t have to have huge numbers to be effective—these are not people looking for controversy. If you’re local, call CBS and tell them that you plan to protest at the event. (It’s okay if you’re not sure. Just sound sure.) Be courteous and nice (although I did tell one receptionist that she had a grown-up job now and had to act like a grown-up after she hung up on me), but be firm and convincing in your message. Try to keep your words positive—rather than say that these groups are “destroying” education, try saying specific things you object to that they’ve done.


reality-based educator said...

A lot of these people I'm not surprised about - I agree that most probably have no idea who or what is really behind this "celebration." But Dave Grohl showing up to this thing really disturbs me. Grohl should know better than to show up to some celebration of teachers sponsored by Walmart and Walden Media. He's savvy enough to know what kind of agenda those outfits will be pushing.

I'm not the biggest Nirvana or Foo Fighters fan around, but I have some teaching friends who will have their worlds crushed to find out Grohl is doing this. I can understand though, as a huge Clash fan, this would be like Joe Strummer (if he were still alive) or Mick Jones doing a thinly disguised anti-union show. That would crush me too. Still, I am disturbed enough that Grohl is doing this. Maybe I am being unfair, but I expect better from somebody like him.

Good post, jazzman. Really brings the various strings of the story together.

Duke said...

He's one of the names that disturbed me as well. Like you, I'm not a big FF fan, but I always thought he had relatively high level of social consciousness.

The other one that kills me is Matthew Morrison - a guy who plays a teacher on Glee!

Everyone, let them know how you feel.

giuseppe said...

Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Holly Hunter are in the film. What a slap in the face, these are actors whom I like and now they are aiding and abetting union hating and teacher bashing. What a great way to launch the new school year, with yet another anti-union, anti-public school screed with very popular and attractive actors. Excuse me while I projectile vomit.

Duke said...

Giuseppe, even more than that: unless I am mistaken, every one of these actresses is a member of SAG-AFTRA, the actors union.


Seriously, WTF???

weezlewort said...

When I tried to tweet to Meryl Streep, it was almost immediately blocked. All I said was to please research "Teachers Rock", as it is anti-teacher and anti-union. Seems she doesn't want to hear it.

Duke said...

weez, looks to me like Streep's people do her Twitter feed. Which is good: they are the ones who need to understand what they got her involved in.

papertiger00 said...

I am not against anti union. I have lived in the home town of union and the anti union states. I think the fact teachers get paid less then a mcdonald's manager is a sad state. If teachers are paid so little and have to pay for a union what are they gaining. I don't agree with parents have control to some extent. i believe you should have control of your own child, that's it. I have an 8 year old in school and i fight for them. I think unions were a needed ideal that has become a corrupt system. like most of our governing bodies.

Edith said...

On FB, post to Foo Fighters to reach Dave Grohl; the link above is to a fan page. Or call his manager! Thanks.

Edith said...

Also, I called the number for Merryl Streep's publicist. Use her email address: ashton.fontana@42west.net

giuseppe said...

The level of union hating in this country is just breathtaking and I'm talking about ordinary working class Americans who would benefit the most from having unions. Canada and Germany have more than twice the unionization rate of the US which is currently at a pathetic 11.8% Unions are almost non-existent in this country and yet certain people rail against unions as if they are the root of all evil, as if unions caused the economic crash of 2008. Sweden has a unionization rate of about 74% and Finland's is well above 80%. The billionaire anti-union gang spend millions to demonize and scapegoat unions and to bust even the hint of a union in a given workplace. We are heading back to 1890 at light speed. The media certainly are no help in this war against unions and the Democrats haven't really helped the unions much lately. Whatever happened to EFCA, poof, just ignored to death.

walt sautter said...

I would suspect that many of these people were sucked into supporting this by its promotion without really understating its source or content.
It could very well be the work of their publicist or agent.Look how popular they made "Waiting For Superman" another piece of BS!
Also I am fascinated by the line "parent trigger, which purports to empower parents".
If parents really want to be "empowered" all they have to do is sit down with their children and help them to learn on a regular basis".
They don't need a "parent trigger" whatever that is!