Last year, even as education reformers all across the country were turning cartwheels in celebration of Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” I remained skeptical. I’ve been keeping tabs on the teacher unions for years, and understand how they work hand-in-glove with the Democratic Party. Since Guggenheim is a well-known liberal (who famously directed Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”), I was certain that “Superman” would tiptoe around the destructive influence Big Labor has on the education system.
Last fall, during some down time on a business trip to New York City, I finally gave in and bought a $13 ticket at a Times Square movie theater to watch "Waiting for 'Superman.'" I was pleasantly surprised.
I’d gone in expecting Guggenheim to make excuses for the state of public education. Instead, Guggenheim grabbed the whole thing by the throat and didn't let go.
He told stories of children who were victimized by a system that puts adults first. He told of union campaign contributions that go to politicians who, in turn, act as the teacher unions’ political puppets. He showed rowdy union rallies and rubber rooms and classrooms that were out of control.
I marveled that a mainstream (liberal) movie maker was exposing the sorry state of public education and the destructive nature of the well-heeled teacher unions.
Needless to say, Guggenheim’s film did not play well with the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. They set up websites to attack his film. They dispatched high profile speakers around the country to fight back. And they cheered when Guggenheim was snubbed out of a nomination for another Oscar.
I have first-hand experience of how vicious the left’s attacks can get, so I can only imagine how they treated one of their own who had dared to step out of line.
Are these attacks the reason Guggenheim is starting to pull his punches?
In a recent conference call with film watchers, Guggenheim was asked his opinion of the goings-on in Wisconsin. Perhaps forgetting his film's content about union contracts and union priorities, he called collective bargaining an "essential principle." He even went so far as to say that he feared the "pendulum could swing too far the other way and employees could be treated the way they were in the industrial era."
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