FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bad Teacher and Why We Need Her

I miss school, now that it’s out, mostly because I spent a lot of time this year thinking and writing about it for a Star series on public education. Luckily, there’s the summer movie, Bad Teacher. People like me, who are on the left or, as Alexander Cockburn terms them, “pwogwessives,” are supposed to hate it because it portrays teachers negatively at a time when they’re under right-wing attack for being the chief cause of U.S. education failure. But I adored the film.

Cameron Diaz is the bad teacher and she’s very funny. She went into teaching for “all the right reasons,” like summers off. In fact, the best teachers I know say that helped motivate them and I don’t see what’s bad about it: everyone deserves decent holidays. Nor how it differs from CEOs getting bonuses for making profits or athletes for making the playoffs. Oops, is that the problem?

She yearns for a boob job so she can snag a rich husband in a singles bar and quit teaching, but it costs too much. She doesn’t know her kids’ names (“You and you: hold that girl.”) Then she finds out there’s a big money prize for the teacher whose students score best on statewide tests so she steals the test, gives her students the answers, and wins the money.

I ask you: Is this an attack on teachers? No, it’s an attack on the rotten system that overstresses test results and undermines real teaching, as if education is a competitive marketplace like the stock exchange that you can quantify in numbers and dollars. It’s satire, stupid. It’s in the tradition of classical theatre like Moli?re’s plays in the 1600s. He wrote about religious hypocrites and inept doctors to expose the forces that produced and encouraged them. He portrayed his targets in order to dissect them. I’ve always felt the best U.S. sitcoms, from Mary Tyler Moore to Two and a Half Men, are Moli?re’s equal. Try the episode where Charlie’s family has dinner at his housekeeper, Berta’s, for a brilliant comedy of manners. Bad Teacher is big-screen sitcom.

Positive or inspirational films tend to be boring and to leave you (or at least, me) feeling manipulated. That warm gooey feeling is also slimy. If you pine for To Sir with Love, or Stand and Deliver, rent them.

Come to think of it, Moli?re was criticized too, though from the right, not the left. His answer, echoing down through the ages, was: “The comic is the outward and visible form that nature’s bounty” ? i.e. reality ? “has attached to everything unreasonable, so that we should see, and avoid, it.” Cameron Diaz couldn’t put it better, or maybe she could. Moliere also sometimes let his characters grow, or show ambiguity, versus being static targets.

Diaz has said she likes her character, Elizabeth Halsey, because she is totally unredeemed in the film, but I think that’s just something the PR people told her to say to sound devilish. In fact, her teacher is redeemed. She rejects the boob job, partners up with an impoverished gym teacher who has a sense of humour of gold, and returns to school, not in a classroom but in guidance, where she can really help kids by being her street-smart self. Of course, this is Hollywood. In reality, there likely won’t be many gym or guidance positions left, as most resources in the system continue to be directed at bumping up test scores while paying minimal attention to those complex entities, kids.

Real life often trumps art, even when the art is satirical. Yesterday came news from Atlanta, Ga., that 178 teachers and principals apparently “cheated on standardized tests to inflate student scores” due to “pressure to meet score targets.” The system’s boss, who was named National Superintendent of the Year in 2009, covered up and punished whistleblowers, going back to 2001. Now she’s no longer in the position. Wow. Maybe next summer’s follow-up will be Bad Principal or Bad Superintendent, to go along with yet another Pirates of the Caribbean. Moli?re never minded building on his successes. It’s part of the learning process.

Rick Salutin is a columnist for The Star, where this article first appeared. He can be reached at  ricksalutin@ca.inter.net

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rothstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail