Boys (and girls) on the bus

Bronx high school kids riding home on the bus on the last day of school are “impressively wise, amazingly clueless, casually mean, and extremely sweet” in The We And The I, writes Alexander Russo.

The movie, which stars teenagers recruited from a Bronx community center rather than actors, “neither scolds nor sentimentalizes its young characters,”  according to the New York Times review. “Instead the film invites viewers, of whatever age, to immerse themselves in the chaos, glee and heartache of a long ride home on the last day of school.”

Parent trigger: Hollywood vs. reality

Adelanto parents attempt to take control of their failing school was rejected by the Desert Trails school board last night. Seventy percent of parents in the Southern California town had signed the “parent trigger” petition, but that dropped below 50 percent after a two-week campaign to persuade signers to rescind. Parent Revolution, which is backing the trigger drive, charges the California Teachers Association and local teachers unions intimidated and misled parents.

Last night, as Desert Trails Parent Union parents defended their organizing efforts and their right to stand for their children’s education, teacher’s union representatives and other school staff attacked parents, one by one. The loudest cheering from the school staff came when the opposition boldly blamed the parents for all of the school’s woes, causing the defenders of the status quo to erupt in wild applause. . . . For over a week and a half parents have been harassed by those pushing a rescission campaign with tactics that included photographing parents that refused to rescind their signature, and telling parents that the school would close on Wednesday if they didn’t sign a rescission petition before Tuesday’s meeting.

Update: Here’s the Los Angeles Times story.

In an upcoming Hollywood movie, Won’t Back Down, however, parents and teachers unite to take over a failing school.

Viola Davis, an Oscar nominee as best actress for The Help, plays a teacher who risks career and friendships to join the revolt. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the single mother who sells cars, tends bar and rouses parents to take charge of their grade school.

Holly Hunter, the union rep, loves her teachers and so she fights the takeover with a ploy you might expect from a corporate villain.

“When did Norma Rae get to be the bad guy?” Ms. Hunter mutters.

The movie is set in Pittsburgh, though Pennsylvania doesn’t have a parent trigger law.

A take-over in Adelanto would have been the first in the nation.

The Desert Trails parents threatened a locally run charter school as a last resort to pressure the board into negotiating changes in the elementary school. Negotiations were going well. I wonder if that progress will end now that the threat of a takeover is diminished.

Of course, a lawsuit is possible — very possible. Parents Union members are trying to talk to parents who rescinded their signatures. If only a few parents re-rescind and claimed they were tricked or bullied into backing down, the petition will be back over the 50 percent mark.

(Bad) Teacher of the Year

Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz, is doing well at the box office. The black comedy is the “most scabrous portrayal of public education ever put to celluloid,” writes Sean Higgins in The American Spectator.

(Diaz’s character) doesn’t bother to teach the kids at all, regularly shows up to class hungover, solicits bribes from parents in exchange for good grades, embezzles money from school fundraisers and tells the one go-getter in her class to give up her dreams of becoming president in exchange for something more realistic, “like a masseuse.”

When I first started teaching, I thought that I was doing it for all the right reasons: Shorter hours, summers off, no accountability …” she explains.

Instead of teaching, she shows movies about inspirational teachers in class. Her job is safe — even when another teacher tells the principal she’s doing drugs on campus. He doesn’t want to tackle the union.

When she learns of a bonus for the teacher whose students earn the highest test scores, she tries to teach, but is lousy at it. So she tries to cheat on the test.

When her rival tries to expose her fraud, Halsey has her — a teacher who actually does inspire students — framed for drug possession and bounced out of the school. And that’s the happy ending.

I doubt viewers will see Bad Teacher as a documentary. It’s a take-off on Bad Santa‘s boozing, foul-mouthed safecracker, which nobody thought was telling the real truth about Santa Claus. Bad Santa is funny because we like to think of even department store Santas as jolly and kindly. Bad Teacher plays off the stereotype of the dedicated teacher. If that image didn’t exist, there’d be nothing funny about a kid-hating teacher.