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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 5. Trapped by Futility: The Problems with Claiming Connections to Real Classrooms in The Class


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The Problems with Claiming Connections to Real Classrooms in The Class

As with Chalk (Akel & Mass, 2006), my introduction to The Class (Cantet, 2008) started at a colleague’s home where a group of us met to watch the film together. We had heard the buzz surrounding this French film, including its winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and we were eager to see what the fuss was about. I have spent many years trying to find a film that captures what I believe to be a representation of real teaching to use in my education courses. While there are plenty of videos of teachers demonstrating “best practices” in the classroom, I don’t always want to show my students what’s good; sometimes, I’d rather discuss what happens when things go wrong, which is why I used the mockumentary Chalk in my courses for several years before discovering The Class.

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