School of Rock’s lessons

Jack Black’s School of Rock is an entertaining adult fantasy about children who rebel in just the right way, writes Brian Micklethwait.

The Jack Black character constantly insists that rock and roll is all about getting angry with authority, challenging those in power, screaming back at “the Man”, blah blah. Well, maybe. But if so, what kind of rock and roll rebels, when told to do rock and rock, answer by saying Yessir!! and doing it, exactly as Mr Black wants?

At the start of the movie, the children first confronted by Jack Black’s bogus substitute teacher are unwelcome to him only in the sense that they are excessively obedient. They all sit in quiet and obedient rows and demand homework and credits and proper teaching. They start out, in other words, as one adult fantasy of how children should be.

And they are then transformed by Jack Black into another such fantasy. The one where the kids all decide that they share their parents’ tastes in pop music.

. . . this movie embodies the central self-contradiction of current adult views about education in particular and the life of children in general. Children should be completely free to do … exactly what we want them to do. They should be allowed to respond at an emotional level … with our emotions. They should be free to dream and to live out … our dreams. And then they should get great jobs as financial analysts and have two point four kids of their own.

I think Brian’s on to something here. Many of the visions of child-centered education assume that children will do naturally what adults want them to do. Dream on, folks.

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