School of Rock thoughts
Response to School of Rock
The most basic underlying assumption about teachers, especially private school teachers, in The School of Rock is that they are the diametric opposite of rock stars. If a rock star is about rebellion, freedom, and a disavowal of the traditional lifestyle of family, home, job and responsibility, then the traditional teacher is the agent who works to curb any â€śrock starâ€? tendencies in the individual student. Central to this premise is not Jack Blackâ€™s Dewey Finn, but Rosalie Mullins, as played by Joan Cusack. Miss Mullins plays the straight-laced administrator who acts as the voice of the school, the voice of authority, and the foil to Dewey Finn. However, as the movie progresses, we see both the human side of Miss Mullins, as well as the sources of her tendencies toward control and conformity.
It is interesting that the straight-laced and disciplinarian Miss Mullins is really a fan of rock and roll. It seems that it only takes a couple of beers to bring out the Stevie Nicks fan in the uptight principal. I think that School of Rock does a good job of breaking down the stereotype of the â€śjailerâ€? or â€śdrillmasterâ€? in the character of Miss Mullins. We see the source of her attitudes and insecurities when she talks about her perceptions of the teachersâ€™ attitudes towards her, and the pressure she feels from parents. Similarly, when the students leave school to attend the battle of the bands, we empathize with her plight; she will be blamed for any mistakes made by her staff, or by the students themselves, regardless of her own culpability within the situation. This is, of course, the ultimate reason for her inability to allow derivation from the standard and rigid practices of education.
Dewey Finn, of course, follows an opposite course. He begins his job as a substitute teacher as a wannabe rock star, intent upon NOT teaching. He eventually does the opposite. In spite of his hatred of â€śthe Manâ€?, he becomes a teacher and an authority figure, assigning students into various roles and managing their lessons in an attempt to achieve a tangible goal. And while his initial goal is simply self serving â€“ to win the battle of the bands, and make money for himself â€“ he eventually continues to work with the kids even when there is no particular benefit for him to do so. I guess this places him into the â€śagent of social changeâ€? category, but I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s really what School of Rock is all about.
School of Rock â€“ as well as Mr. Hollandâ€™s Opus, Dead Poetâ€™s Society, and a million other films about teachers â€“ is about making education engaging. It is about taking the most easily bored section of human society â€“ adolescents and pre-teens â€“ and making them interested in a subject which would not normally be interesting. The average teacher is fricking boring. Boring, boring, boring. Their classes are snooze-fests. And they shouldnâ€™t be â€“ history, literature, art, even science and math, are filled with some of the most exciting topics known to humanity. But the cinderblock walls and the fluorescent lights and the quizzes and tests and learner-based pedagogy work to destroy anything fascinating along the way. And since the average teacher is more worried about getting in trouble with his or her principal than with engaging his or her students, classes tend to stay boring.
Until Dewey Finn comes along (or Mr. Holland or Mr. Keating). Because Dewey brings passion. Dewey brings humor. Dewey believes in what he says. Dewey wants his students to have fun. And most importantly, in this film, Dewey brings music.
What better way to engage an audience? Humanity responds to music. Do you think Raiders of the Lost Ark would have been nearly as good without that Indiana Jones theme music? Would several hundred thousand young hippies have gathered at Woodstock for peace, love and happiness if there had been no bands? People donâ€™t travel across country to see their favorite poet read at some coffeehouse. But they will follow the Grateful Dead for several decades. (I personally drove to Alpine Valley in Wisconsin â€“eight hours- to see Jimmy Buffett). Young couples have â€śtheir songâ€?. Superheroes have theme music. Every TV show starts with a musical introduction. Music is engaging to humanity, and is therefore all the more reason for it to be included in the classroom. If the students are not engaged, they will never learn a thing.