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Bright Lights, Bad Schoolhouses

Teachers’ unions as big-screen villains.

Jul 26, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 42 • By SONNY BUNCH
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If Guggenheim’s film is to be believed, the changes required to fix this system aren’t terribly radical. He cites a study from the Hoover Institution’s Eric Hanushek which found that permanently removing the worst 5 to 10 percent of teachers from schools would vault U.S. students into the upper tier of global achievement as measured by standardized testing​—on par with Canada. Without changes to the cushy contracts teachers’ unions have negotiated, however, raising American children as well-educated as their Canadian counterparts is just a pipedream.

“It’s crazy the system that we have,” Guggenheim said after the screening of his film at Silverdocs. “The systems that adults have organized have often been in the way of change.” None of those systems is more opposed to change than the teachers’ unions. With a little luck, this spate of documentaries will help highlight that fact and lead parents across the country to demand change we can believe in.

Sonny Bunch is the senior communications associate at the Center for Union Facts and a member of the Washington Area Film Critics Association.

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