We the Parents Is a Must-See Civics Lesson


Public education has been an American value since before the Revolution, and it has, to put it mildly, weathered its share of storms. While the decentralized nature of our schools has allowed flexibility, creativity, and reform to take hold more swiftly than in other cultures, it has also allowed great inequities to become entrenched. With local property taxes the usual basis for funding, this is a system of “Them that’s got shall get, Them that’s not shall lose.” James Takata’s documentary We the Parents chronicles the fight to pass and test California’s “parent trigger” law, which provides a mechanism for parents to take on a failing school, possibly firing the principal or handing it over to a charter-school company. Takata masterfully tells a tale of struggling families in Compton who want more for their young children than the woefully inadequate instruction they apparently get at their local elementary. These poor, non-college-educated parents, just like those in the suburbs, see great potential in their children and believe they’re entitled to a good, even excellent, education. Takata shines a light on people’s lives as they realize what power they have. Even in his news-feature style, he provides suspense, heartache, victory, defeat, hope. We the Parents is a must-see civics lesson, an example of the power of grassroots organizing and of having a good lawyer, and of how seemingly small ideas can make big waves.