Movie writers and directors are keen in their choice of subjects to ensure that they attract a large audience. Among the common subjects and themes covered by most movies are aspects related to schools, teachers and adolescent life. The reason behind the choice of theme is that the subjects interest many people, hence attracting large viewership. The discussion is based on the film Blackboard Jungle as it seeks to look at portrayal of the possibility of social economic empowerment, oppressive context of education, race and gender (Brooks 1). The paper also highlights the film’s reflection of the goals and challenges of public schools and the aspects of the film that are “Hollywood”.
Blackboard Jungle was released by Hollywood in 1955. The film is accompanied by some strains of early rock and roll as it represents the high school life in the inner New York City. It mirrors the height of criminal activities and educational dysfunctions that are presented to have occurred in a vocational high school in the city (McCarthy 317). The film highlights the delinquency of multi-ethnic youths belonging to an urban working class. Some of the teenagers show deviant behavior by beating up, robbing and rapping adults. The film presented a mixture of societal issues that characterized the 1950s including failing school systems, race relations, rock and roll, cold war, urban transitions and response to crime among others (McCarthy 317). The film intends to show the concern regarding the causes and consequences of juvenile delinquency with particular interest instances when delinquency occurs at schools.
Possibility of Social and Economic Empowerment
The introduction of the movie shows that aspects of juvenile delinquency were mainly focused on schools. The educational institutions failed to serve their rightful purpose in the society for the working-class and in areas within the big-city America. On the contrary, schools that existed were disadvantaged either socially or economically and were regarded as the main causes of youthful misconduct. The society saw schools as the brooding ground for teenage criminals, hence deviating from the moral responsibilities that schools are intended to perform. In most cases, teenagers were blamed, alongside their teachers, for the criminal activities that the schools were accused of propagating. The accusations towards teachers regarding soiled moral standards indicated that teachers were lazy and that they were too scared to stamp their authority. The blame based on the perception that the criminal activities that teenage learners showed were the fault of teachers. As such, schools were regarded as oppressive to the society because they turned out to be a burden instead of instilling social norms and sanity. The school depicted in the film Blackboard Jungle is the one that rules out possibilities that the students could attain any social or economic empowerment. Teachers lost control of the classrooms that were largely multi-ethnic and that appeared to look like living rooms.
Politicians, cultural and civil elites raised concern over the turn that the early fifty’s schools had taken. Schools role in promoting social and economic empowerment was eroded by the popular media. Media forms like movies and music were accused for their contribution that corrupted the minds of the youth culturally. The youngsters depicted in the movie represent the situation as it was in similar schools, hence creating fear among parents about the future of their children. It was clear that schools lost shape and turned away from their mentoring role to serve as training grounds for a wide range of social evils.
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Goals of Education
Education ought to serve the role of instilling moral norms in learners and helping them gain social and economic development. The education system that is presented in the film shows a deviation from the norm as students turned the school to a breeding ground for immorality and crime. They rebelled against their teachers and came to the point of attacking their female teachers and raping them.
Generally, social crime is associated with low intelligence quotient. Therefore, parents take their children to school in hope that they behavior gets shaped to conform to the societal expected standards. Blackboard Jungle justifies the connection between low academic performance and delinquency (McCarthy 321). The film draws a contrast by presenting Dadier’s visit to the suburban school. The visit shows the contrast between the learning conditions in the schools. It indicates that North Manual High School did not have top students. The learning environment presented in the film shows that the goals of education can be achieved if measures are not taken to create and sustain sanity in schools.
Challenges Encountered in Public Schools
There are several challenges that are encountered in public schools. Blackboard Jungle is a film that shows missed opportunities for idealistic public debate concerning education in the United States. As indicated in the film, several challenges were experienced that made it difficult for schools to thrive in the mid 1950s (McCarthy 317). Literature and films like Blackboard Jungle acted to depict the actual situation in the society. The authors had hope that such indications would help to restore sanity in schools and serve as essential advocacies for change. As witnessed in the film, the goal of education could not be attained due to the dilapidated educational facilities. Government has not allocated efforts to improve the condition of the classrooms that were overcrowded with students of mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds. In most cases, public schools suffered from teacher shortages and lacked well formulated curricular to be followed in the learning process. Instead of focusing on education, Americans were distracted by imaginations of knife-wielding delinquents.
Blackboard Jungle shows how a young teacher arrives at a vocational school and finds himself in a classroom that is packed with hoarse and heartless ‘hoods’. The description of the nature of the classroom indicates that the environment is a battleground. The director gives several scenes to justify the anxiety that the teacher had after observing the condition of the classroom. He undergoes a painful experience when he learns that he can hardly take control of the class and it is impossible for him to attract the pupils’ attention to learning.
The film also depicts other challenges that teachers encounter when they are faced with hostile working conditions. In Blackboard Jungle, the young teacher comes to a vocational school expecting to execute his duties only to be met with unbearable hostility by the pupils. Apart from his inability to control the class, he is physically assaulted by the rowdy pupils. The situation becomes worse as the teacher is attacked by a kid with a knife. It shows chaos and poor education system. In a well-organized education institution, pupils do not display the extent of arrogance that was observed in the vocational school. The film shows how teenagers in the school showed open disobedience to the authority, destroyed property and lumbered their learning halls as thugs. Teachers became shocked by the conditions to the point that they gave up teaching.
The film also shows laxity on the part of the leaders. At the moment when teachers were being subjected to unbearable conditions in the classroom, the principle and other administrators failed to acknowledge that there was a problem. It shows that those in authority had given up their leadership roles, hence surrendering the school to delinquents. During the Cold War Blackboard Jungle was viewed by contemporaries as a dangerous depiction of the U.S. public schooling and youth. The film portrays a culture that, if transported to a foreign land, could highly erode America’s reputation.
Blackboard Jungle was set in a boy’s high school to be in line with the perception that criminal activities are essentially male (McCarthy 320). Most of the characters in the film are male with a few female personalities given positive roles to protect delinquents from involvement in criminal activities. The female characters presented in the film are teacher Lois Hammond and Anne Dadier. The two women became victims of the male students’ criminal activities. The male students’ behavior is portrayed as extreme to the extent that they were a threat to female teachers. For example, Hammond was given a warning that she would need to be protected from the students by a National Guard if she attempted to dress in a manner that would slightly provoke them. The men showed rowdy aggressiveness that seems to justify the perception that there are associations between crime and testosterone levels. Besides, owing to the social-economic status of the students, the film seeks to justify the argument that criminal activities are stronger among members of the lower socio-economic classes.
One of the nasty scenes observed in the film is when some male students climbed the top bar of the schools’ fence towards a passing female as they made crude sounds. Their facial expressions and gestures are also used as an illustration that crime and immorality is mainly a male characteristic.
Being a film that was produced by Hollywood, Blackboard Jungle has shown features that are associated with Hollywood movies. It used causal effects and events in the creation of heroes. The students were made to be involved in a series of activities that helped to create heroism of the teacher, who came later to restore sanity in the school. The film displays the presence of an unrealistic goal associated with the thirst to have a state of normalcy restored in the school, where the authority has surrendered their responsibilities. The rowdy students are presented to have taken full control of the school as if no governing authorities existed to curb the vice.
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The movie Blackboard Jungle demonstrates how movies can be used a way of addressing the various vices that threats the normal functioning of a society. Being one of the institutions expected to promote peace by instilling morality in children, the author seems to lobby for idealistic public debate concerning education in the United States. It is by investing in its institutions that the country can help to restore sanity in schools and enable them serve as essential advocacies for change. As witnessed in the film, the goal of education could not be attained due to the dilapidated educational facilities and the subsequent lack of control/authority in schools. For sanity in any education systems, governments need to address the challenges that teachers encounter when they are faced with hostile working conditions among such other issues as gender violence.