DangerousMindstells the story of a retired Marine, Lou Anne Johnson, who appliesfor a teaching job at Parkmont high school. She is assigned a classin the academy school where most of the students are from theunderprivileged Hispanic and African-American families (Bruckheimer,Simpson, & Smith, 1995). However, her first day in class isdifferent from her expectations because she meets hostile anddisorderly teenagers who do not show her any respect. The studentsrefuse to learn and even start mocking Miss Johnson’s efforts toteach them. The class lacks proper recognition of authority, whichforces the teacher to leave. Miss Johnson tries to make the studentscooperate by teaching them karate. However, they lose interestimmediately when she goes back to teaching them according to thecurriculum (Bruckheimer, Simpson, & Smith, 1995). Consequently,DangerousMindsportrays the society and the school as though they do not care aboutthe needs of the students or promoting academic excellence amongteenagers from the underprivileged families and racial minoritygroups.
Themovie depicts the school negatively because the administration seemsuninterested in the students’ progress. The school limits theachievements of underprivileged learners as it only permits teachingsimple skills. For example, the principle reprimands Miss Johnson forteaching her class karate because it is not part of the curriculum(Bruckheimer, Simpson, & Smith, 1995). Thus, the school does notengage the students in programs that broaden their horizon toaccomplish their potential. Instead, the learners are forced toaccept the status quo hence, they believe that they do not deservebetter than what they have in school and the society. Then again, thelearning process is poorly linked to the subject matter being taught.The administration places the underprivileged and minority studentsin low-level programs that do not prepare them adequately for highereducation. For instance, the educator is required to use trivial andalienating curriculum that teaches passive practices such as readingthe book My Hamburger, My Darling (Bruckheimer, Simpson, &Smith, 1995). Moreover, the film assumes that the schooladministration does not want the challenging kids to excel. Forinstance, a female student, Callie, gets pregnant and she is forcedto transfer to another school that has poor academic standards whereshe can learn how to be a mother (Bruckheimer, Simpson, & Smith,1995).
Nevertheless,Miss Johnson has discernable education philosophies. The teacher usescollaborative learning that requires active participation from thestudents. For example, she gives her class poems and guides them inanalyzing the meaning of those readings (Bruckheimer, Simpson, &Smith, 1995). The teacher is also trying to help the students bycreating class activities that offer them a better way of learningrather than what is prescribed in the curriculum. She decides tochallenge the curriculum to provide the students with more relevantlearning materials, which uses the experiences that are familiar tothe learners (Bruckheimer, Simpson, & Smith, 1995).
Themovie portrays Miss Johnson as a caring teacher who embracesdifferent teaching strategies. For example, she informs her classthat she will give them an A grade at the beginning of the semester,but the students have to maintain that grade by working hard in theirstudies(Bruckheimer, Simpson, & Smith, 1995). Therefore, she isthe first teacher who challenges the teenagers in the academy schoolto be more responsible. Miss Johnson helps the students to moveforward and upward in the society by assimilating what they learninto their daily lives (Shoffner, 2016). On the other hand, MissJohnson is more than just an educator to her students as she tries tohelp them face the challenges they encounter even outside the schoolcompound. For instance, she protects the students who were fightingby visiting their homes and explaining to their parents thecircumstances regarding their expulsion (Bruckheimer, Simpson, &Smith, 1995). The students use active learning method where theycollaborate in class activities and extra work. For example, Callie,Durrell, and Raul work together to win the Dylan-Dylan contest(Bruckheimer, Simpson, & Smith, 1995).
However,the movie has made the assumption that a teacher does not need to beprofessionals as long a person understands the basics of teaching(Shoffner, 2016). Miss Johnson is not a certified educator becauseshe did not finish her internship and yet the school administrationgave her the job. Besides, she seems to have a positive impact on thestudents than any of their previous teachers despite her lack oftraining and inability to follow the curriculum. On the other hand,the education system in the movie is ineffective because thecurriculum dictates that the students should not be taught to thinkfor themselves (Shoffner, 2016).
Thenagain, the students are reluctant to try out new things even if theydo not like the current curriculum. Thus, the teacher is forced touse incentives to entice them to learn new things. For example, shepromises to take the students to the amusement park if they agree tofinish their assignments in poetry (Bruckheimer, Simpson, &Smith, 1995). Some of the students are portrayed as delinquentbecause they come from the underprivileged communities. For instance,Raul confesses to Miss Johnson that he is wearing a stolen jacket.Therefore, he is ready to do anything to earn money to pay for itotherwise, the seller will kill him. Similarly, Emilio reveals thathe is being threatened and he believes that the only way out of thesituation is killing the other person (Bruckheimer, Simpson, &Smith, 1995). Hence, these teenagers do not value education, and theydo not expect to graduate from high school.
DangerousMinds makes the assumptions that societies do not expect theschool to have well-mannered and educated students. Theunderprivileged communities do not value education because theybelieve that the school will not benefit their children in any way.For example, Mrs. Roberts believes that she is not raising lawyersthus, her sons do not need to go to school because they have to workand pay the bills (Bruckheimer, Simpson, & Smith, 1995). Theschool principle, Mr. Grandy, represents the power in the societythat he uses to his discretion. The curriculum laws set by the Boardof Education do not fit the needs of the students, but the principleopposes Miss Johnson’s efforts to change it (Bruckheimer, Simpson,& Smith, 1995). Hence, it denies the students the opportunity tolearn something useful outside the curriculum.
Consequently,race and social class are significant in the film because thestudents who are termed as special kids in the academy school arefrom the minority ethnic groups and underprivileged families. Theselearners are depicted as a group of young people who have live inhopelessness and violence. The teachers do not believe that the kidsin the academy school can understand poems. Therefore, theseteenagers are not given any positive attributes unlike the otherstudents in the school. For example, Mr. Griffith’s class iswell-mannered, and they seem puzzled by the behavior of the specialkids who are heard shouting across the hall (Bruckheimer, Simpson, &Smith, 1995).
Inconclusion, the movie aims to show the circumstances surrounding thelives of the students who are considered delinquents in the society.The film involves teenagers from the minority and underprivilegedgroups who do not care about education because they do not believethat it can help alleviate the problems they experience in theirneighborhood. Initially, these students do not know English and thecurriculum only requires them to perform simple learning tasks thatdo not prepare them for higher education. The film makes assumptionsthat the teachers do not need to be professionals to promote positivechange among the most challenging learners. Likewise, the movie showsa stereotypical depiction of minority students and underprivilegedcommunities.
Bruckheimer,J. and Simpson, D. (Producers), & Smith, J. N. (Director).(1995). DangerousMinds.[Motion Picture]. United States: Hollywood Pictures.
Shoffner,M. (Ed.). (2016). ExploringTeachers in Fiction and Film: Savior, Scapegoats And Schoolmarms.New York: Routledge.