School reform gets cool
It’s no longer just for nerds
By NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY
August 7, 2012
Maggie Gyllenhaal, the ultimate hipster actress, stars in “Won’t Back Down,” an education-reform drama that hits theaters next
month. When did school choice became cool?
The film is the tale of two parents (one a teacher) who decide to save their own kids and many others by taking over a failing
school in a poor Pittsburgh neighborhood.
This follows “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” the 2010 documentary that depicted the fortunes of those desperately competing for a
place at a charter school — from the same progressive filmmaker who gave us “An Inconvenient Truth.”
In fact, a whole lot of 20- and 30-somethings across the political spectrum now believe something’s seriously flawed in our
public-education system. (You can bet Gyllenhaal wouldn’t have taken the role otherwise.) But why the sea change?
Start by “blaming” Teach For America — which for decades now has placed recent graduates from top colleges as teachers in
some of America’s worst public schools.
This year, TFA has 10,000 corps members working in 36 states and the District of Columbia. It has 28,000 “alumni,” more than
two-thirds still in education-related fields. But even those who’ve left for other lines of work have had a glimpse of how bad our
inner-city schools have become. The incompetence and corruption are hard to forget.