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Analysis of the Movie “Dangerous Minds”

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Analysis of the Movie “Dangerous Minds”

Many movies involving teachers and tough students have been produced over the years. The objective of most of these movies is to show that even tough students, who are considered hopeless by the society, can change their ways and mature to be responsible. The teacher in the movie ends up finding some hidden talent within the students, which the student did not know they had. In most of these movies, minority communities such as African-Americans and Latinos are usually the target. These communities are targeted for their apparent tough attitude towards life and the harsh conditions that they endure. The movie Dangerous Minds is no exception. It shows how a teacher struggles to change the students in an inner city school and how she succeeds in the end. Concepts such as adolescent development, their identity, morality and ego development, the teacher’s role, parental style, juvenile delinquency, adolescent pregnancy, adolescent mental health and bullying are addressed.

Dangerous minds tells the story of a former marine, who moves to an inner city and applies for a job at an inner city school. She gets the job immediately and she is given a tough class to handle. The students in this particular class do not see the importance of education and they do not show any interest in learning. The new teacher does not give in however, and she incorporates unconventional methods. These include bribing and manipulating the students so that they can agree to participate in their studies. She also shows interest in their personal lives and this shows the students that she cares for them. The students begin to trust her because of this and this makes it easier for her to teach them. As the movie progresses, the viewer sees the students mature from students who  had no hope in life to students who are ready and willing to face the future.

At every stage of adolescent development, adolescents experience a crisis, which gives them an opportunity to grow. The crisis can be a turning point where the adolescent realizes that he or she is no longer a child and that he has to be responsible. This can be caused by a positive or negative experience. In the movie, one of the female students, Callie, realizes that she has put her future in jeopardy because she is pregnant. She is forced to leave school before the end of the semester because of her pregnancy. She is advised to go to a school for teenage mothers and at first, she agrees despite the fact that it has poor academic standards. Although she is a bright student who excels in English, the fact that she is in that particular class means that she does not see the benefits of education. The teacher manages to encourage the girl to stay in school and continue with her education despite the bureaucratic school rules.

An ecological model is a system of development that connects an individual with his or her environment. Human behavior can be determined by intrapersonal factors, interpersonal relationships, organizational factors, community factors and public policy. Community refers to the different social groups where a person belongs. These social groups are responsible for determining a person’s identity. Many students in the movie have experience violence in one form or another. This is clearly seen in the way they talk about death and murder and the fact that some of them have joined gangs. One of the students, Emilio, is caught up in the violence and this is seen in the school and outside the school. It also affects the language they use. The students speak the same kind of language irrespective of where they are or whom they are addressing. Their language only changes when they are reading something from one of the poems.

Development is influenced by different environmental levels. These levels are the mesosystem, microsystem, macrosystem and exosystem. The microsystem is the immediate environment where a person has first hand experiences and it will influence how a person grows. This includes classroom and home interactions. One of the students, Durrell, is smart and he shows great potential. The home and the school environment are different for him. While the teacher recognizes the great potential that he has, the mother believes that the student is better off working than studying. This ultimately affects the way the student sees himself. A mesosystem is a social context that involves the interaction of several microsystems. The home and the school are different environments for Durrell. They are supposed to work together for the betterment of the person but this is not the case for Durrell. The fact that they are working at opposite extremes of each other shows that they are affecting his growth.

The exosystem includes the social contexts that an individual might not interact with frequently although they will still influence him or her. Callie is forced to leave the school in the middle of the semester because of her pregnancy. The school for mothers-to be is an example of an exosystem. Though she does not interact with the school, it still affects her life because she is forced to choose it as an alternative. The macrosystem is the underlying social and political climate at the level of society. The school administrator, Mr. Grandy, represents the power in the society, a position that he uses to his discretion. His laws about following the school curriculum as has been set by the board of education do not seem to be working for the students and he opposes all efforts to change it. It affects the students because it denies them the opportunity to learn something else outside the school curriculum. He represents a sort of bureaucracy that may be evident in a section of the population.

Apart from teaching in the classroom, the teacher takes on the role of being a cop and a psychologist. She thinks that she is helping the students when she breaks up the fight in the school. She also tries to shield the students who were fighting from the school authorities. Later, she talks to the students who were involved in the fight and she tries to dig deeper to find out the reason why the students were fighting. As she is asking the student about the fight, the student asks her if she is going to try to psychologize her. In addition to this, she visits Raul’s family and she tries to explain to his mother concerning the fight.

Parenting styles determine how a child grows. Parents can use authoritative style, where they are both demanding and responsive. Parents can also be authoritarian whereby they are very demanding and are no responsive. Another parenting style that parents can adopt is indulgence, whereby the parents are not demanding but they are responsive. Neglectful parents are not demanding and neither are they responsive. Durrell’s mother is negligent because she prevents her sons from going to school. According to her, she does not expect them to be doctors or lawyers and sending them to school is a wasteful. Raul’s mother is authoritative. She is concerned when she hears that her son was involved in a fight and were it not for Miss Johnson, she would have gone ahead and punished him.

Juvenile delinquency is also portrayed in the movie. As the teacher and the student are having dinner in a restaurant, the student reveals that he may be wearing a stolen jacket. He does not seem disturbed by that fact, showing that it is a common occurrence in his neighborhood. He also reveals that he can do anything, including stealing, to earn the money needed to pay for the jacket. The concept of killing as a way of defending oneself is also prevalent in the movie. The police do not seem to play an active role in protecting the people in this community and the people are used to taking matters into their own hands. When Emilio is threatened by someone who has been released from jail, he says that he would rather deal with the situation himself rather than ask for help. According to him, the only way to solve the problem is if he killed the person who was threatening him first. Students are also involved with dealing drugs. Emilio reveals that the person who is threatening him is of the same age as him and that they go to the same school.

Adolescent pregnancy is addressed as something that is common in the movie. This is seen by the fact that the school has established a system of helping pregnant students. Girls who become pregnant are encouraged to leave school because pregnancy is considered contagious. The mother-to be school has set up programs that are aimed at helping the teenage mothers become better mothers once they leave the school.

The movie addresses bullying though it does not provide the solution for dealing with the problem. Although Emilio is popular, his popularity stems from the fact that many students and teachers fear him. In reality, he is a bully because no one messes around with him and no one wants to be on his bad side. Bullying seems to establish him as the informal student leader in the school. The students in Miss Johnson’s class can also be considered bullies. They have managed to bully all the teachers that are assigned to them. They bully them to the point that all the teachers in the school avoid teaching them. Bullying affects adolescent development because the victims live in fear. The victims find it hard to socialize with their peers as they look for ways to hide from their victims. They live in intimidation and this causes them not to develop properly.

The movie “Dangerous Minds” is stereotypical in its view of adolescents and this view is flawed and inaccurate. The movie portrays the students from the inner city as having a life that is full of violence and hopelessness. It exaggerates all the details and it does not show any positive attributes of the students prior to Miss Johnson’s arrival. Apart from a few students who think of violence, none of the other student is seen as having dangerous minds and the title is therefore inappropriate. A better title for this movie would be developing minds. This title is more suitable because the viewer is taken through the process of the student’s development. For instance, when the students first began learning poetry, they did not know anything about it. They did not know Basic English but as the movie progressed, they were even able to analyze some of the poems. They also developed their interest in learning and this is seen in the end as the students express their desire to graduate. The students stopped seeing teachers as a necessary nuisance in their lives and they accepted them as people who were there to help them.

 

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