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A Very Inconvenient Truth: Director Laments Teachers' Unions

A Very Inconvenient Truth: Director Laments Teachers' Unions

"I know the inside-baseball people in education will criticize it."

This week, we showed you the trailer from the new documentary on public education called "Waiting for Superman." The film explains that public education is failing, and that alternatives (such as charter schools) are filling the void. But who does the director -- the same one who directed Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" -- fault, in part, for the downfall? Teachers' unions.

"The [public school] system we've built works really well for the adults, like the unions, and the bureaucracy, and even the parents, but it's not working for the kids," the film's director Davis Guggenheim tells CNN yesterday.

The New York Times explains the movie's message like this: "Mr. Guggenheim is clear about why so many urban schools have failed students: They harbor too many bad teachers, whose unions protect them."

And if the teachers' union reaction is any indication of the film's content, Guggenheim could be on to a very inconvenient truth. According to the Times, Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.5-million-strong American Federation of Teachers, issued a public response Sept. 9 calling the film "inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete." She objected to his portrayal of charter schools as the saviors of education, while painting teachers’ unions as villainous.

Yet Guggenheim admits he doesn't necessarily favor charters as the only solution (he tried to film the movie in a magnet school in L.A. but was denied), even though the film follows five students as they wait to be rescued from the public school system through a charter school lottery.

He anticipated the criticism, and knew the film could be considered offensive. But he tried to keep politics out of it: "I know the inside-baseball people in education will criticize it. I was always saying to myself: 'Davis, you’re not an education expert. Tell the story from the point of view of a kid trying to find a good school.'"

Some are still waiting.

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