In this essay, Peter Dreier contrasts the films of the corporate reformers with a new film that shows the struggles, challenges, and successes of an American public school.

Dreier usefully follows the money behind the corporate-funded films “Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down.” The common link between them is Walden Media, owned by arch-reactionary Philip Anschutz.

Dreier writes:

“It is no accident that both films promote similar themes. Both were produced by Walden Media, which is owned by Phil Anschutz, a right-wing businessman who owns two of the nation’s premier conservative publications (the Weekly Standard and the Washington Examiner) and whose foundation has donated $210,000 to the antiunion National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund. Anschutz is also a backer of Americans for Prosperity, the political war chest founded by the right-wing Koch brothers and has donated to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has made dismantling labor unions a key part of his policy agenda. Anschutz also spent $10,000 in 1992 to promote Colorado’s Proposition 2, which let private property owners discriminate against gays and lesbians, $150,000 to the Mission America Foundation, which condemns homosexuality as “deviance,” and $70,000 to the Discovery Institute, which attacks the idea of evolution and proclaims that “Darwinism is false.”

Bill Gates was featured in the “Superman” film, donated at least $2 million to promote it.

But now comes a response to these efforts to destroy a basic democratic institution. As Dreier writes:

“Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District, by veteran documentary filmmakers Jim and Dawn O’Keeffe, is a welcome antidote to the bleak and misleading message of Waiting for Superman and Won’t Back Down. Go Public celebrates public schools without ignoring their troubles. It follows 50 people in 28 schools – teachers, students, parents, a school board member, principals, a baseball coach, librarians, a school psychologist, volunteers, and the district superintendent – during one day (May 8, 2012), from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed.”

And more:

“The result of the O’Keeffes’ effort is a remarkable 90-minute film that examines the daily realities of an urban public school system – the Pasadena (California) Unified School District (PUSD), where two-thirds of the 18,000 students come from low-income families, where many parents are jobless, where many students live in homes where Spanish is the first (and in some cases only) language, and in a state where per-student funding ranks 47th in the country.

“Go Public celebrates the small and large miracles that happen in PUSD classrooms every day. We see overcrowded classrooms, but we also see an elementary teacher who greets each student with a special word of support as he or she arrives in her classroom.

“The film shows us students participating in a pioneering middle-school robotics program. An elementary school teacher gets students excited about science by explaining how blood flows through arteries that keep their hearts beating. A music teacher instructs a jazz band at a high school where parents have to hold fund-raisers to pay for instruments. An elementary school teacher instructs students to play part of the Brandenburg concerto on their violins.

“We see a teacher patiently, persistently and lovingly instruct students with autism and Down’s syndrome. Special needs students, who require smaller classrooms and specially-trained teachers, but whose cost is not fully reimbursed by the state government, comprise a significant portion of PUSD’s student body.”

“Go Public” will be screened on Friday July 26 at All Saint’s Church in Pasadena.

Wouldn’t it be a miracle if Bill Gates put $2 million into promoting this film?

The counter-revolution has begun. Truth will defeat lies and propaganda, even billionaires.