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Reel Education

Documentaries, Biopics, and Reality Television


Jacqueline Bach

Reel Education is the first single-authored book to bring together the theoretical and practical considerations of teaching cinematic texts about education that claim a degree of verisimilitude. Given the recent influx of documentaries, biopics, and reality television shows about education, new theoretical frameworks are required to understand how these productions shape public conversations about educational issues. Such texts, with their claims to represent real-life experiences, have a particular power to sway audiences who may uncritically accept these stories as offering “the truth” about what happens in schools. Since all texts, whatever their truth-claims may be, are grounded in specific ideologies, those in the fields of humanities, education, and media and communication studies must pay attention to how these films and television shows are constructed and for what purposes. This book provides an analysis of documentaries, biopics, and reality television, examining the construction of the genres, the explicit and latent ideologies they contain, and the ways in which students and faculty might critically engage with them in classrooms.
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Chapter 4. “I See the Same F—ing Movies You Do, Man”: An Analysis of Three Biopics about Teachers


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An Analysis of Three Biopics about Teachers

The title for this chapter comes from a line from the 1995 movie Dangerous Minds (DM; Smith), a biopic based on the 1992 teacher memoir My Posse Don’t Do Homework (MPDDH; Johnson). In the memoir and film, ex-Marine LouAnne Johnson takes a job at Parkmont High School in Southern California where she faces a challenging group of students. In the particular scene that serves as the basis for this chapter’s title, Johnson has just discovered several of her students in a fight—a fight that was a continuation of an earlier one she believed she had diffused. She learns that rather than having prevented a future fight, she had only postponed it.

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