Oh, wait, I take that back. One more thing. I don’t think the Hollywood film makers are intentionally perpetuating stereotypes and simplistic plot lines. I think in some cases they genuinely believe their stories, in some cases they are trying to create a feel-good story to attract an audience, and in some cases they just don’t have a clue because they never attended public schools and their worlds are so insulated that they believe whatever expert they have hired. I was told, for example, when I protested the racial stereotypes in Dangerous Minds (all black kids are raised by crackhead single moms, all Hispanic teens are gangsters because their parents don’t care, black parents resent effective white teachers), I was told in a very haughty voice that the “gangologist” on their staff assured them that their movie was an accurate depiction. I laughed myself silly before I cried.
Mr Grandy is one of the only school authority figures of color in the movie, and it’s ultimately his refusal to see Emilio—because he wasn’t “respectful” enough to knock on his office door instead of barging in—that gets Emilio killed. (In real life, Emilio didn’t die; he spent four years in the Marine Corps and started a family.) This moment—and the subsequent scene in which the remaining kids beg LouAnne to stay because she’s their “tambourine man” and their “light”—encapsulates the narrow, patronizing worldview of Dangerous Minds . It is also egregiously maudlin, even compared to To Sir, With Love , in which the teacher’s climactic triumph comes in the form of a gooey No. 1 pop song . In that film and others, at least, the teachers and their students interact with one another in a way that feels more like the “two-way street” Bass described—like in the end of Blackboard Jungle , when Dadier has decided he won’t quit teaching, and Miller has decided he’ll stay in school after all. “I guess everybody learns something in school, even teachers,” declares Miller.
Wendy Bradshaw likely never believed that she would become a famous educator. In fact, she gained fame and admiration by doing something that usually doesn’t earn people accolades. She quit. She left her job as a teacher because, in her words, she could no longer justify making children cry. Her frustration was over educational reforms that concentrated too much on test scores, not enough on students needs, and that were completely inappropriate for students developmental levels. Her letter of resignation went viral and helped to spur a conversation on education that continues today.