Teacher movies also often involve racial tensions. One
prominent example of this kind of movie is Freedom Writers. Students of
Ms. Gruwell are distracted in class due to gang wars in the community
and heightened racial tensions both at school and outside the
classroom. Ms. Gruwell recognizes this fact and then decides to teach
her students about the Holocaust to show them that their small gang
“wars” are nothing in comparison to the Nazis and their attempted
take-over. It is important to note that a vast majority of these students
have not heard of the Holocaust when she starts to speak. She
recognizes her students’ struggles, but by comparing it to something
like the Holocaust and explaining its import, she gives her students the
opportunity to put their experiences into a context that might provide
them with motivation to improve themselves and take their education
more seriously. Like Coach Boone, Ms. Gruwell uses history to put their
own cultural experiences into a context that helps the students better
understand how to achieve success.
Finally, Lean on Me also has a significant social context that is
woven throughout the film, and the story leans heavily on that social
context. I have discussed these social and racial tensions in this movie
with regard to the context of the other characteristics, but there is a
direct reference to the outside world in Joe Clark’s speech to his
students: “These are my white children, and they are the same as all of
you. They have nowhere to go. If they had, they would have abandoned
us a long time ago like everybody else did.” This statement is a direct
reference to the fact that the school has been allowed to decline while
nobody on the outside seems to care that the students at the school are
struggling. It is also a reference to racial tensions present when the
quality of schooling is taken under consideration. Clark focuses on
socioeconomic class and acknowledges the disadvantages that the
students face as well as the negative perception the outside
administration has of them.
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