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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 10: Schools, Schooling, and Student Voices


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Throughout earlier chapters, I have tried to make connections between a group of Hollywood films about teachers and teaching and Huebner’s value frameworks of curriculum and also to inject various, more fluid, theories of popular culture and social critique into that discussion. I have established a generic representation of the good teacher in these Hollywood movies that is presented as a radical model when, in fact, the good teacher in the movies may tug a little at the cornerstone of the institutional hierarchy, but this structure is never shaken. Similarly, I have identified equally vivid representations in these films of the bad teacher and the gendered teacher. These celluloid images influence our individual and collective constructions about teaching and what it means to be a teacher. As Michael Ryan and Douglas Kellner write in Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film:

Films transcode the discourses (the forms, figures, and representations) of social life into cinematic narrative. Rather than reflect a reality external to the film medium, films execute a transfer from one discursive field to another. As a result, films themselves become part of that broader cultural system of representations that construct social reality. That construction occurs in part through the internalization of representations. (12–13) ← 191 | 192 →

Recognizing the role popular culture plays in our everyday lives and asking questions about how we can use the...

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