Saturday, July 09, 2011

Bad Teacher and Why We Need Her

From CounterPunch, a counterintuitive look at the new movie Bad Teacher:

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 Molière’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 Molière’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.

More here.

I really need to see this one. The previews I saw a few weeks back looked funny, but what really stood out is that the Cameron Diaz character didn't appear to be too terribly different from how I was when I was teaching. I mean, wildly exaggerated, of course, but I felt some kinship with the notion of the regular ordinary adult person who has utter contempt for the authoritarian and anti-educational culture and organizational structure of the public school system. Sure, her character probably differs from me in that, I'm assuming, she couldn't care less about her students' educational welfare, but like the above excerpt asserts, it is very nice indeed to see such an assault on the system brought to life on the big screen.

That is, I very much like the idea of a contemptible person trying to survive the contemptible system we call "school." Kind of like School of Rock. I'd throw in Dead Poets Society, too, but the Robin Williams guy really appears to be a paragon of virtue in addition to being a rabble-rouser. I could be wrong about all this, of course; Bad Teacher could be without any redeeming qualities at all.

But I don't think so. Maybe I'll check this out on Monday.