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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 6. “I Can’t Teach You That Other Stuff”: Incorporating Biopics about Education into the Classroom


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Incorporating Biopics about Education into the Classroom

Occasionally, I teach a graduate seminar on secondary school curriculum, a course designed to provide a critical analysis of the content, organization, and evaluation of the secondary school curriculum. Specifically, we focus on 1) the relationship between education and culture; 2) race, class, gender, and curriculum; 3) curriculum in a postmodern society; and 4) accountability, globalization, and education (Hendry, 2011). During this course, we read three teacher memoirs and watch a film/television show that is either based on one of those memoirs or connected to the author’s story. Those pairings include:

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