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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Lottery

Some friends and I saw the new documentary, The Lottery, yesterday. This is the third documentary out this year about school reform and the battle with the teachers unions to establish charter schools to finally achieve some success in educating inner city minority children. The Lottery follows the hopes of four families trying to get their children a spot at Harlem Success Academy, the tremendously inspiring and successful charter schools in the midst of all the failing regular public schools in Harlem. It is just heartbreaking to see all the hopes centered on having a child's name pulled from the thousands of applications in the lottery to get into the schools.

What was really disheartening was viewing the vituperative opposition from the teachers unions to the spread of charters. They even hire rent-a-mobs from Acorn to protest the openings of new charter schools battling to keep open failed public schools rather than letting a successful charter expand into the building. As the WSJ writes in their review of the film:
But on the way to making the film she imagined, she "stumbled on this political mayhem—really like a turf war about the future of public education." Or more accurately, she happened upon a raucous protest outside of a failing public school in which Harlem Success, already filled to capacity, had requested space.

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Zina Saunders

"We drove by that protest," Ms. Sackler recalls. "We were on our way to another interview and we jumped out of the van and started filming." There she discovered that the majority of those protesting the proliferation of charter schools were not even from the neighborhood. They'd come from the Bronx and Queens.

"They all said 'We're not allowed to talk to you. We're just here to support the parents.'" But there were only two parents there, says Ms. Sackler, and both were members of Acorn. And so, "after not a lot of digging," she discovered that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) had paid Acorn, the controversial community organizing group, "half a million dollars for the year." (It cost less to make the film.)

Finding out that the teachers union had hired a rent-a-mob to protest on its behalf was "the turn for us in the process." That story—of self-interested adults trying to deny poor parents choice for their children—provided an answer to Ms. Sackler's fundamental question: "If there are these high-performing schools that are closing the achievement gap, why aren't there more of them?"
Here's a clip from the film and an interview with the creator of the film.


geoford said...

One interesting aspect of this is the well-paid white-dominated leadership of the unions hiring the well-paid white-dominated leadership of Acorn to protect the dues-paying, black-dominated rank and file union members with poor, black-dominated rent-a-mobs.

tfhr said...


Someone has to keep things in order on the plantation. (Look for the Union label)

Pat Patterson said...

It's to be shown in LA next weekend and I already have tickets. The teacher's union in LA, the UTLA, vaguely threatened to picket the theater but seems to have settled for a press release that was ignored calling The Lottery anti-teacher and anti-children propaganda.

They seem subdued and that is probably due to the precent bond failure and that next years deficit for the LAUSD is some $600 million plus.

tfhr said...

Pat Patterson,

If I were you I'd have some pepper spray at the ready when you arrive and depart from the screening.

Madeleine Sackler's work, The Lottery is a heart-rending portrayal of the desperate efforts of parents to save their children from an educational holocaust.

I plan to have copy on DVD as soon as possible for the purpose of disseminating it's message as far and wide as I can.

tfhr said...

By the way, is anybody else reminded of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery by this documentary? The acceptance of such a system, due in large part to desperation, seems all too familiar.