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Screen Lessons

What We Have Learned from Teachers on Television and in the Movies


Edited By Mary M. Dalton and Laura R. Linder

This unprecedented volume includes 30 essays by teachers and students about the teacher characters who have inspired them. Drawing on film and television texts, the authors explore screen lessons from a variety of perspectives. Arranged in topical categories, the contributors examine the "good" teacher; the "bad" teacher; gender, sexuality, and teaching; race and ethnicity in the classroom; and lessons on social class. From such familiar texts as the Harry Potter series and School of Rock to classics like Blackboard Jungle and Golden Girls to unexpected narratives such as the Van Halen music video "Hot for Teacher" and Linda Ellerbee’s Nick News, the essays are both provocative and instructive.

Courses that could use this book include Education and Popular Culture, Cultural Foundations, Popular Culture Studies, other media studies and television genre classes.

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Chapter Nine: Learning from a Teacher-Machine: Terror and Implanted Knowledge in The Prisoner (Wendy R. Williams)


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Learning FROM A Teacher-Machine

Terror and Implanted Knowledge in The Prisoner


Although there is no shortage of bad teachers represented in film and on television, one of the worst can be found in The Prisoner (1967–68). In the episode “The General,” a teacher-machine duo brainwashes students through a Speed Learn program. This episode can be read as a critique of educational systems that favor efficiency and compliance over critical thinking and personal meaning making. As the show demonstrates, going along with the status quo can maintain unjust systems. On a personal level, this episode is important to me because it shows the dangers of pushing standardization too far. The educational system in The Prisoner is mechanical and oppressive. It robs teachers and students of their right to creativity, which I find terrifying.


The basic premise of The Prisoner, a 17-episode television series from Britain, is that a man who holds a high position in government—most likely a spy of some sort—suddenly resigns. This character then wakes up in the Village, an isolated town no one can leave, and he is known only as Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan). Throughout the series, Number 6 attempts to escape from the Village, but he is continually thwarted.

In nearly every episode there is a new Number 2, a leader who attempts to figure out why...

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