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The Hollywood Curriculum

Teachers in the Movies – Third Revised Edition


Mary M. Dalton

The third edition of this book analyzes over 165 films distributed throughout the United States over the last 80 years to construct a theory of curriculum in the movies that is grounded in cultural studies and critical pedagogy. The portrayal of teachers in popular motion pictures is based on individual efforts rather than collective action and relies on codes established by stock characters and predictable plots, which precludes meaningful struggle. These conventions ensure the ultimate outcome of the screen narratives and almost always leave the educational institutions – which represent the larger status quo – intact and dominant. To interrogate "the Hollywood curriculum" is to ask what it means as a culture to be responsive to films at both social and personal levels and to engage these films as both entertaining and potentially transforming.

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Chapter 4: The Technical-Scientific Value Frameworks of Bad Teachers in the Movies


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In Chapter 2, I introduced The Hollywood Model as the system that commercial films use to evoke images of the good teacher. At every level, Hollywood’s bad teachers arise in contrast to that outline. I have described the good teacher as an outsider, one who is not well-liked by other teachers. The bad teacher is generally presented as neither liked nor disliked (by other teachers) but as part of the system embedded so deeply into the structure of the school as institution that he or she must be accepted or at least tolerated. While good teachers get involved with students on a personal level and seem genuinely to like them, bad teachers are typically bored by students, afraid of students, or eager to dominate students.1 The good teacher often has an antagonistic relationship with administrators while the bad teacher fits into the administration’s plans for controlling students. Finally, as good teachers personalize the curriculum to meet everyday needs in students’ lives, bad teachers follow the standardized curriculum, which they adhere to in order to avoid personal contact with students.

When Huebner discusses his five value frameworks for curricular thought – technical, scientific, (a)esthetic, ethical, and political – he argues that none of the five values he proposes exists in a vacuum separate from the other four ← 61 | 62 → and that none is inherently good or bad. Instead, Huebner...

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