Monday, October 31, 2011

"The Nation" Reviews GEM Film As Unions and Universities Hold Screenings While UFT Continues Boycott of Film

UPDATE Oct. 31, 11PM: We heard from The Nation that they will be showing the film on Thursday Nov. 3 at 4PM followed by a discussion led by Dan Goldstein.


We have been so excited that the film we started working on 14 months ago as a short you-tube project not only turned into an hour long feature film, but since the premiere in May (with Diane Ravitch as our guest speaker) the film made by NYC school workers and parents and without any promotion other than word of mouth and the internet has shown such staying power - except here in NYC where the UFT Administration continues its boycott of the film refusing to mention the film in the NY Teacher or in any other venue.

In the meantime, unions all over the nation, have been showing the film.

The Chicago Teachers Union has been a big supporter.

The LA Teachers union has held screenings and has contacted GEM for permission (they don't need it) to reproduce the film for every chapter leader to show to their school.

Here here in NYC we have to do this one school at a time.
PS 261 in Boerum Hill will be showing the film on Nov. 9 as part of a campaign to inform the locals about the truth about charters.

Last Thursday 60 people at NYU showed up for the film and a rousing discussion afterwards.

Next Monday the film will be shown at Teachers College at 4PM
On Nov. 9th I'm flying up to Cortland State College for a panel. They are showing the film on campus this week and next.

Hofstra will show the film after the New Year.

The Connecticut State Teachers Association held a showing and sent us a check for $500 as a donation.
Boston U did the same as did the British Columbia Teachers Fed.

Thanks to Julie Woodward for the review from The Nation below. Julie has been an incredible activist over the years as one of the founding members of the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) and we worked as partners for many years. Since she retired last spring, we haven't heard much from her. We're hoping she at the very least keeps her toe in the water in the battle against the ed deformers.

FROM THE NATION   Nov. 7th,  on the page called "Noted." (p.5), this is the 2nd story (middle column) on the page.
TEACHERS TAKE ON ‘SUPERMAN’: As two recent documentaries make clear, it’s not the abysmal state of the US education system that’s up for debate when only 12 percent of African-American boys in the fourth grade read at grade level, but rather the solution.

The influential documentary Waiting for “Superman,” released in September 2010 to critical acclaim, made the case for charter schools. A prescient complement to the Occupy Wall Street movement, with a demand early in the film to get “Wall Street out” of public schools, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for “Superman, released in May by the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), is a “no budget at all” response that argues that the charter movement’s push to privatize public schools is a move to corrupt one of America’s foundational tenets: access to equal and fair public education. Narrated by Brian Jones and Julie Cavanagh, New York City public school teachers, the film goes after Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit umbrella organization that runs three charter schools and is featured heavily in Waiting for “Superman.” It points out that a large portion of HCZ’s money comes from corporate sponsors. In September 2010, just as Waiting for “Superman” was being released, Goldman Sachs donated $20 million to HCZ. Of its seventeen board members, eleven are affiliated with major financial institutions.

The film also disputes the claim in Waiting for “Superman” that unions are responsible for protecting bad teachers. Its most salient segment looks at Finland’s education system, celebrated in Waiting for “Superman,” and reveals that 98 percent of teachers in Finland are members of the Trade Union of Education.
The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for “Superman” offers a list of ten (often vague) reforms to the current system, including “Parent and Teacher Empowerment and Leadership” and “Democratic and Social Justice Unionism.” During the Q&A session at a screening in New York on October 14, audience member and high school social worker Kathe Karlson voiced concern that if the unfocused group of organizations affiliated with Jones and Cavanagh’s GEM “didn’t come together,” they would simply “repeat [themselves] for a generation or two.” A member of GEM responded, “Look at how they’re doing it on Occupy Wall Street. It works.” Perhaps the Superman we’ve been waiting for is Occupy Wall Street.


To order the DVD "Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman"

DVD requests from have come in from ALL 50 STATES and....6 continents!!!


Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on the right for important bits.


  1. We created a pass and share routine in our graduate class. Each week a new person gets to take a copy home and share it with others then returns it the following week for someone else to take home.


  2. Perhaps The Nation will now reconsider having charter authorizer and hypocrite Pedro Noguera as its primary writer on education. I cancelled my subscription of more than 25 years because of its disgraceful ignoring of the hostile takeover of the public schools.

  3. Also check out Winerip's new piece in today's Times.


  4. I emailed the information on the documentary to the chair of curriculum and teaching Dr. Doris Fromberg last April. The C & T school is very much against the 'new education reform' agenda. Dr. Fromberg was extremely interested in the documentary and wanted further information.

    Norm, is she the one who contacted you? She was my adviser from grad school who I occasionally keep in touch with.

  5. No it wasn't her but Debra Goodman and Andrea Libresco.

  6. Norm,

    I vaguely know Andrea Libresco from the Hofstra teacher alumni network. She is absolutely wonderful and will 150% support your cause.

    Also, when I met up with Dr. Fromber last April, she also supports your cause.

    Hofstra's Curriculum and Teaching Department is extremely progressive that focuses on authentic assessment and learning experiences. Majority of the professors do not even give tests to their students because they like to 'practice what they preach'.

  7. Wow! This is great. Congrats to the filmmakers and all those who worked on this amazing film that tells the real story!!


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