TNT’s “The Ron Clark Story,” about an unconventional white teacher who turns ghetto kids into achievers is predictable tripe, writes the Washington Post (via Eduwonk and Constrained Vision). Slate had kinder words for another teacher movie, “Half Nelson,” which avoids some of the cliches.
On the plane from Frankfort to Chicago, I watched (without sound) some of “Take the Lead,” with Antonio Banderas as an idealistic white teacher transforming ghetto kids by teaching them ballroom dancing. The cliches really pop out when you can’t hear the dialog.
Of course, I’m bitter because interest in making a movie of my book, Our School, has faded. If you believe the subtitle, it’s an “inspiring story of two teachers, one big idea and the charter school that beat the odds.” The charter school’s co-founders are white and idealistic; most of their students are underachievers from low-income Mexican immigrant families. But I tried in the book to avoid the usual cliches. Greg Lippman, co-founder and principal for the charter school’s first four years, hated the image of the hero teacher coming in and saving the day through superhuman effort. His goal was to create a school that would enable non-hero teachers to teach well. The students decide whether to transform themselves into serious students. Nobody gets rescued against his or her will.