I recently saw “Freedom Writers“. The reason I hadn’t watched it before then, apart from it’s general unavailability in Japan, was Dan Meyer’s review of it, wow! 3 years ago. Thanks to Google Search, it took me less than a minute to find Dan’s review. After watching the movie, I felt Dan nailed it, especially this paragraph:
I don’t mean to set up this false dichotomy between teaching and caring. Both happen in the same practice; both are essential. But teachers — or rather, Teachers, by which I mean my union proper, the blogosphere in general, and my co-workers in particular — have emphasized caring over teaching. Teachers continuously fail to differentiate us from well-educated au pairs, as evidenced and perpetuated by Freedom Writers’ very existence.Again: teaching and caring (passion, if you want) are inextricably linked.
But: only one of them is difficult.
The reason I watched Freedom Writers was because I’d brought the video of Stand and Deliver to a friend’s house to watch, and as the opening scenes rolled he remembered he’s already seen it. So then we flipped thru his hard-drive to see what else he had that might interest us, and he had Freedom Writers and recommended it. The same Google Search on Dan’s site pulled up this comment of Dan’s about Stand and Deliver, which made me laugh (the comment, not the movie):
Stand and Deliver? Are you people kidding me? That was 1988. Pretty sure I wasn’t even born then.
Okay, so I saw it a long time ago, so long I didn’t feel comfortable introducing it into the post proper. All I remember, in fact, is Edward James Olmos collapsing and falling down a flight of stairs. Which kinda strikes me as par for the teaching movie course.
I mean, Jaime Escalante did some fantastic stuff, no doubt, but we’re talking about creativity and perserverance, primarily, neither of which are very cinematic attributes.
So you overdramatize. Instead of some rowdy bangers, you have the freaking teen slum lord of South Central sitting in the back row. Instead of an intrusive, useless administration you have completely antagonistic dictators. Instead of a strained, joyless family life, you have husband and wife screaming at each, throwing perishable items against walls, and divorcing, in the case of Freedom Writers.
And you have Edward James Olmos falling down a flight of stairs.
None of this is to suggest these tragedies don’t afflict teachers, that they aren’t real, but to see all of them in the same movie, as is par for the teaching movie course, beggars belief.
I think the book has more to teach about teaching and dealing with people than the movie, which tries to pack everything in, and leaves out such important things like Principal Gradillas.
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