Stop watching feel-good teacher movies

Stop Watching Feel-Good Teacher Movies, writes  Joshua John Mackin in The Atlantic. Movies such as Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers and Lean on Me have distorted American’s ideas about teaching in struggling schools, he writes.

Idealistic young teacher enters classroom that is out of control. Young teacher tries his or her best to assert authority. Minority Student A responds with inner-city wisecrack and entire class laughs.  Minority Student B makes aggressive comments about Minority Student A and fistfight ensues.  Teacher goes home in tears.  Yet through indefatigable large-heartedness and real talk with students, young teacher eventually makes astonishing progress with these overlooked kids in the face of an unsupportive bureaucracy. 

There’s always a happy ending.

By focusing so narrowly on the inspirational teacher-overlooked student dynamic, the genre of movie teaching implicitly sends the message: All kids need is somebody to believe in them.  Think of Gabourey Sidibe’s character in Precious.  Or the “Dungeon Kids” in Take the Lead.  Almost every teacher movie follows the same dramatic arc: previously overlooked children have their potential unleashed only through the benevolent intervention of a charismatic adult.

Children who grow up with “poverty, crime, the collapse of family life, moral norms” need a lot more than one really good teacher, “even one really good Harvard-educated teacher,” Mackin writes.

The only Hollywood movies without hero teachers feature horrible teachers, he adds. Bad Teacher is not realistic either. (It’s not meant to be.)

Are there good feel-good teacher movies?

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