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Reel Schools

Schooling and the Nation in Australian Cinema

Josephine May

Reel Schools takes a fresh look at the history of Australian schooling through the lens of Australian cinema from the silent era until 2010. In exploring the relationship between cinematic representation and educational history, Josephine May shows how numerous Australian feature and documentary films offer access to powerful vernacular imaginings about school education in Australia.
May argues that the cinematic school is a pervasive metaphor for the Australian nation. She demonstrates that, while Australian films about schooling have consistently commented on the relationship of schooling to the Australian class structure, they also increasingly explored gender, race and ethnicity at school, especially after the 1970s. From then on the egalitarian dream of school education and the nation’s capacity to generate meaningful futures for the young became increasingly contested.

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Figure 2.1 – Father Hartigan in Around the Boree Log, 1925, Photo- graph, Dooley, 1998. Copyright Permission and still provided by National Film and Sound Archive, Title Number 360464. Figure 2.2 – Taking the pledge at the Macarthur Street School, Bal- larat, in 1924. Orphan Work, permission and still provided by Na- tional Film and Sound Archive, Title Number 55248. Figure 2.3 – The young school teacher Dot arrives in the country town of Grenfell. Copyright permission: National Film & Sound Ar- chive, still image from The Adventures of Dot (Grenfell version) Title No: 10895. Figure 2.4 – Intertitle, The Adventures of Dot (Grenfell version 1927). Orphan Work, permission and still provided by National Film and Sound Archive, Title Number 10895. Figure 2.5 – Glenelg Dot, The Adventures of Dot (Glenelg version, 1927), Orphan Work, permission and still provided by National Film and Sound Archive, Title Number 278. Figure 3.1 – A teacher prepares some lessons to send. School in the Mailbox (1946) Copyright Permission and still provided by Film Australia, Title Number 126393. Figure 3.2 – Still photograph from School in the Mailbox (1946). Children gathered around the radio in the garden. Copyright Per- mission and still provided by Film Australia, National Film and Sound Archive Title Number 126395. Figure 4.1 – Desire, death and the figure of the schoolgirl in Walk- about (1971). Copyright Permission kindly provided by John Henderson Euro London, still provided by National Film and Sound Archive, Title Number 4470. Figure 4.2 – Appleyard College in Picnic at Hanging Rock. Lobby Card, copyright permission kindly...

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