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New Matt Damon Movie Maligns Poor Parents

In 2012, CER CEO Jeanne Allen sat down for an interview for an education documentary. In the course of conversation, Jeanne used a phrase that the filmmakers repurposed as the title of their movie, Backpack Full of Cash.

“It was a shock to see them cunningly and deliberately cut my quote to serve their own purpose,” Jeanne recalls. “We always have to fight people who are, frankly, uneducated about the issue.“

She continued: “If I could show Matt Damon what we actually do — and the options kids can have so they don’t have to go to failing schools — he’d be a supporter.”


In that spirit, here are five lessons to #EducateMattDamon:

In the News

Also, while you’re here, feel free to check out a few articles about this disingenuous little film. These pieces come from both CER and news outlets such as the Hollywood Reporter, the Boston Globe, and USA Today:

What if We Gave Each Child a Backpack Full of Cash?
Common Ground With Bill Walton
October 30, 2017

What would it mean to education if we gave each child a backpack full of cash and let their parents determine which school should earn that money?

Backpack Full of Hypocrisy
October 26, 2017

A Hollywood millionaire and the film’s narrator, Damon was blessed with living in the right ZIP code and went to a prestigious little high school a stone’s throw from Harvard Yard, where he would attend college. Only a few miles away, kids in Boston’s poorest neighborhoods find themselves in the wrong ZIP code, with futures as dim as Damon’s was bright. Damon could have described their plight; instead, his narrative papers over a system where bureaucracy and unions mandate uniformity, seniority and tenure, and students are expected to abide a centuries-old system while the rest of the world moves on without them.

How Do We Fix Failing Public Schools? Give Students “Backpacks Full of Cash”
CNS News
October 24, 2017

“Imagine what it must feel like to be Allen now. That film is now being released, and rather than a balanced treatment of a variety of approaches, it is a hatchet job on her idea.”

Backpack Full of Cash Documentary Fuels Controversy Over School Choice
Education Week
October 12, 2017

“For them, the stress is on the cash,” Allen said. “For those of us who believe that the backpack full of cash — or money following the student — is a way to have a better education for everyone, it is about equity.”

C’mon, Matt Damon. You’re Better Than This.
October 9, 2017

Controversy in this work is to be expected, but when filmmakers create a false narrative in an attempt to bolster failing schools — and don’t acknowledge that the unions were probably their biggest funding source — it’s despicable.

Is “Backpack Full of Cash” on the Money?
USA Today
October 5, 2017

In an interview, Sarah Mondale, the documentary’s director and co-producer, confirmed that the film’s creators in 2012 were still working to figure out the narrative.

“The film, at that time, it was the germ of an idea,” she said. Though she and her colleagues knew they wanted to look at how school choice has impacted disadvantaged students, “We didn’t yet know who the narrator of the film would be. We didn’t know the title.”

School-Choice Advocate Says Damon-Narrated Film Is ‘Backpack Full of Hypocrisy’
The Boston Globe
October 5, 2017

“This movie is all about smearing us as anti-public education,” Allen said. “It’s a backpack full of hypocrisy. Matt Damon’s kids go to a private school.”

Damon has not commented on the kerfuffle, but in an e-mail obtained by THR, the filmmaker said they used “editorial discretion” in using Allen’s comment as the title of the movie.

Participant in Matt Damon Public School Doc Lashes Out at Filmmakers
The Hollywood Reporter
October 4, 2017

“It was a shock to see them cunningly and deliberately cut my quote to serve their own purpose,” Allen says. “If I could show Matt Damon what we actually do, and the options kids can have so they don’t have to go to failing schools, he’d be a supporter. Damon did not respond to a request for comment.”