The Power of Film to Educate and Miseducate Pre-Service Teachers: A Phenomenological Analysis of Hidalgo and Cultural Representation of Muslims Post 9/11

By Fontaine, Haroldo A. | Multicultural Education, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

The Power of Film to Educate and Miseducate Pre-Service Teachers: A Phenomenological Analysis of Hidalgo and Cultural Representation of Muslims Post 9/11


Fontaine, Haroldo A., Multicultural Education


Introduction

While undertaking the analysis reported in this article, I experienced several feelings-perhaps chief among them was resentment. This resentment found its objects not in the students engaged in this project, but rather in the opinions and attitudes expressed by these students that suggested, if not actually stated, that those who emigrate to the United States, or who come in contact with its representatives abroad, should abandon their traditions and practices and assimilate into mainstream and supposedly superior American culture and values.

As a working-class, Afro-Cuban metrosexual immigrant, what I have found is what Sherman Alexie dramatized in his novel The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), viz., though I may have assimilated American virtues, I have also imbibed sundry American vices-i.e., biases, prejudices, and bigotries, and in many sizes, shapes, and colors.

How are we as instructors to reflect on these issues, and most importantly, how are we to prepare teachers who are also aware of and critically reflective about these issues? In this article I consider three of today's pre-service teachers who have each watched the World Trade Center towers collapse on broadcast television, viewed the film Hidalgo, and participated in subsequent interviews regarding the movie. It is through these events that I have examined the pre-service teachers' views about the proper role that Muslims should play in the American 'nation'-what Benedict Anderson (1991) defined as an "imagined community."

Popular Films

Popular films can offer narratives that shape the way audiences imagine the 'nation.'1 Pre-service teachers are oviously part of these audiences.2 Joe Johnston's Hidalgo (2004) was a popular film,3 and I submit that it represented an attempt to rally American public opinion in favor of U.S. intervention in the Middle East.4

Though I consider myself a capable cultural critic who has written about and lectured on this film, the focus of the present qualitative case study is not intended to illustrate my critical acumen, but rather to gauge that of the three pre-service teachers being studied. My goal is to develop in them a critically reflective teaching practice as described by Zeichner (1990):

[To help them] see relationships between [their] daily practices in the classroom and issues of schooling and society .... (to help them develop relational thinking in their pre-service training) by deliberately focusing (their) attention on particular kinds of issues connected to their everyday teaching activities that raise questions of equity and social justice. (p. 58)

Specifically, I want to examine the extent to which the pre-service teachers in this study interpreted Hidalgo as a proposal for how the post-9/11 American 'nation' and the Muslims within and without it should be imagined, and whether and the extent to which the pre-service teachers agreed with that proposal.

In 2001, the federal government estimated that approximately one million adult Muslims5 lived in the United States, and I think it is reasonable to assume that biological reproduction and immigration has increased and will continue to increase that number. Their children attend our schools and share our classrooms, and the teachers we prepare need to be sensitive to their culture and their educational needs.

Thus, this analysis is important for teacher educators who are looking for unique ways to identify their students' biases and prejudices against cultural and ethnic minorities, and who want to dissolve those prejudices so as to ensure that their students-as-teachers-in-the-making will provide equal educational opportunity to all students, including Muslim children.

I preface this report with what I see as a correction of a seemingly common mistake found in what I presume are popular qualitative methods textbooks (c.f., Creswell, 2007; Merriam, 1998; Miles & Huberman, 1994). …

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