So I watched the movie Dangerous Minds and my post will be very similar to Selma's in the sense that I will tell you a bit about the movie and then discuss connections to class concepts of education, literacy, and racial/class discrimination. The movie opens with an urban scene of as students are making their way to the bus. Throughout this introductory scene, we see broken down homes, graffiti, what looks to be a drug deal, and many other factors of what an audience would expect in a "ghetto" atmosphere. While these images have all been filmed in black and white, the film then changes to color as the students are actually on the bus and going through the suburban areas of the town--in which we see big homes, parents dressed in professional job attire, and kids off to school in their own (pretty nice) cars. So right from the beginning of the film we are meant to recognize this contrast from where these two different groups of students are coming from--I particularly liked the change from black and white to color in the film and I feel that really heightened the contrasting areas of this city. These two groups of students are then constantly made aware of their differences throughout the film--as any authority figure in the school will always trust a student that comes from suburbia over the urban kids, and the teachers' attitude towards the urban kids in the school is always one that exhibits classist, even racist ideas. A quick example of this is when a student from an urban background goes to see the principle-he is sent away for not knocking--and when asked about this the principle explains how they need to "teach these kids manners" and "learn how to live in the world." We continue to see how the urban kids are discriminated against in the school system throughout the film.
We are then introduced to Lou Anne Johnson, a former marine and someone interested in becoming a teacher. The film illustrates a scene in which she is being interviewed by the school's assistant principle. Even though Lou Anne has never taught before and is only interested in becoming a teaching assistant, the assistant principle assures her that they can provide her with some emergency certification in order to teach the "academy" students--since the last teacher left without notice and they really need someone to fill her spot. This all sounds great to Lou Anne--who is unaware that these "academy" students are the ones we first saw in the beginning of the film that come from urban areas of poverty and have been basically kicked out of the 'traditional' classes.
When Lou Anne goes in front of the class the first day, she does not last 5 minutes--the students first ignore her and when she tries to get their attention they shout at her, calling her "white bread" and explain how the last teacher had a nervous breakdown. Lou Anne was completely unprepared for this--but she does not give up like many other teachers have with these kids--but instead begins to get their attention using more non-traditional forms of education. She gets in trouble for teaching the students some karate moves, and is criticized for using Bob Dylan's poetry that discusses "inappropriate" topics like drug dealing as parts of her curriculum--but it is these forms of learning that the students really gravitate towards and excel with. Lou Anne's ability to capture the students' attention is also illustrated by her ability to adjust her teaching methods to relate more to the students. When teaching the students grammatical concepts, she uses phrases like "Never shoot a homeboy" in order to communicate things like verbs, nouns, and direct objects. As the story goes on, she gets more and more involved in the students' lives and really makes a difference in the way the student's view their education. And, of course, the students end up really affecting her life as well--I won't get into all the details so that you will go watch the movie since it is great! J
The biggest challenge Lou Anne had to overcome was the view of these academy, urban students by the school system. Lou Anne had to consistently fight against what we saw in Anyon's view of working-class schools, and she is even criticized by one of the parents for teaching her children "meaningless" poetry when she felt they should be learning something more practical for their current, low-paying jobs. The parent even states that she is "not raising no doctors or lawyers." In the movie, it seems that everyone has already counted these kids out of education. Even Lou Anne's friend, who encourages her teaching, tells her, "poetry? For these kids?" I think the biggest thing Lou Anne was able to give these students was her belief in them--which was unyielding from beginning to end. On one of the first days of class, Lou Anne tells the class that they all had A's at this point in the class--and it would be their job then to keep that A throughout the semester. I'm curious if any of you guys have dealt with similar issues in your community sites? Or if you are coping with students who have negative influences around them that are clearly affecting their view of education? I know the students that I work with are really motivated to get an education, but even with dedicated students I think I still have to battle against other forces telling them they "can't" or "won't" be able to achieve their goals.