I've seen this movie a million times. Okay, maybe not this specific movie -- but movies exactly like it. You know, the movies about the mild-mannered, well-meaning teacher who shows up in an inner-city school, determined to make a difference. Take Stand and Deliver, for example.
This time, however, the well-meaning teacher is played
by Michelle Pfeiffer. (Thus, she has very little difficulty in getting her male students' attention.)
After her divorce, Louanne decides that she wants to become a teacher. It seems
that she's in the right place at the right time because the school where she
applies to be a student teacher is in desperate need of a full-time teacher, so she
gets the job (and the teachers' certification) on the spot. Little does she know,
though, that her Academy class full of "bright, challenging" students is actually a
class full of rowdy, disrespectful inner-city kids.
All she wants to do is to teach them about poetry -- and give them strength and
hope and the confidence to succeed in the real world. But her challenges are
more numerous than she expected. First, she has to deal with a class full of kids
who aren't really interested in reading poetry (but she solves that problem by
bribing them with candy bars, expensive dinners, and trips to amusement parks).
At the same time, though, she's faced with teenage pregnancies, fights between
students, parents who think school is a waste of time, and a school
administration that's far from helpful and supportive. All this for $24,700 a year!
Okay, so I may sound a bit cynical about this movie. Maybe that's because it's
not very realistic. How many teachers can afford to take their entire class to an
amusement park -- on a teacher's salary? And how many teachers have the
time to drive out to visit the family of each student who gets into trouble -- or who
needs a little extra encouragement?
But I'll stop now and get off my soapbox before I really climb on it. I'll just say
that Dangerous Minds isn't exactly a realistic movie. It doesn't give the
ideal formula for being the perfect teacher and for making kids (any kids -- not
just inner-city kids) want to learn. But no one said it was Hollywood's job to find
the solution to our educational issues. Hollywood's job is to entertain us -- and
maybe to make us think a bit -- and that's exactly what Dangerous Minds
does. Mission accomplished.