Academic journal article Film & History

Feature Editors' Introduction

Academic journal article Film & History

Feature Editors' Introduction

Article excerpt

Schools, teachers, students, and administrators are common subjects in film and television, and viewers share many school experiences - from sitting at desks in rows, trudging through homework, squinting at multiple-choice exams, and lugging textbooks to resisting exhortations from teachers and swooning at their compliments. But the messages about the quality of schools, the challenges of teaching, and the purposes of education vary widely. For most adult viewers, in fact, school is a distant memory, easily upstaged by depictions of it on the screen - depictions that soon shape their perceptions, beliefs, biases, and values toward education in general and toward school life in particular.

The first of the five essays in this issue on film and schooling analyzes the historical significance ?? The Blackboard Jungle, the 1955 melodrama that established the norm for urban school films. In "They Turned a School Into a Jungle!: How The Blackboard Jungle Redefined the Education Crisis in Postwar America," Adam Golub places the film in its social and historical context, discussing the film's production and reception and the potential influence of the film on the public-education debate. Golub juxtaposes the belief that the film was a realistic portrayal of problems facing schools in the United States with the view that it was an "irresponsible exaggeration." Was the film a work of fact or fiction?

Anne Helen Petersen, in "Their Words, Our Story: Freedom Writers as Scenario of Pedagogical Reform," examines a modern-day version of the urban-school film Freedom Writers. The article focuses on the presentation and performance of race, difference, and education reform through the lens of Kristeva's theory of the "abject" and through Dyer's theory of whiteness. Petersen explains how the film, as part of a larger pattern of school-reform films, encourages viewers to conceptualize difference, poverty, and race as "problems solved only through strong white leadership. …

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