the film, the well-educated and wealthy Miss Moffat (Bette Davis) uses
her money to establish a school for young men in a poverty-stricken,
Welsh town plagued with illiteracy. Her hope at the outset of the movie
is to give her students opportunities for paths other than what is
expected, a lifetime of working in local coal mines. These students
struggle with the fact that they will never escape this cycle of poverty
and lack of education, but Moffat has other ideas and proclaims, “When
I was quite a young girl, I looked the world in the eye and decided I
didn’t like it. I saw poverty and disease, ignorance and injustice, and in
a small way I’ve always done what I could to fight them.” This is a
noteworthy example of the good teacher as an agent of social change
because Miss Moffat’s recognition of a social issue facing struggling
students and her determination to combat it is what characterizes this
model. For example, Moffat’s commitment to getting the promising
student Morgan Evans into college instead of trapped in the vicious
cycle of a life of poverty in the coal mines is a testament to her
dedication to making a tangible difference in the lives of her struggling
students. She embodies the role of an agent of social change because
despite the resistance from various members of the town and
frustrations of students at times, Moffat consistently demonstrates a
strong resolve to keep the school running and to improve the lives of
students like Morgan.
While the emotionally struggling student is often associated
with the good teacher, who is either a friend or an agent of social
change, it must be noted that within this student category there is an
unmistakable deviant pattern linking these troubled students with
variations of the “bad teacher” (as opposed to a teacher who can and
will help them). The bad teacher as a bystander is located on the less
extreme end of this spectrum of representation. In films such as Carrie
(1976), Heathers (1988), and Dangerous Minds (1995), the teacher as a
bystander is not necessarily a bad person. Instead, the teachers
presented here fail to really help emotionally struggling students in
several ways: they may not pick up on or act on the various calls for
help they receive; they help in superficial rather than meaningful ways;
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