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At the Movies

The new movie “Freedom Writers” has received critical and popular acclaim for its portrayal of a courageous young teacher who changes the lives of students in a troubled inner city school. But in an opinion article published in the New York Times, a 10th grade history teacher in the Bronx argues that such Hollywood depictions create a distorted and potentially harmful image of the teaching profession. Apart from glossing over the harsh conditions in which teachers in urban schools often work, writes Tom Moore, films like “Freedom Writers” promote the message that “what schools really need are heroes”—or teachers who are more “missionaries than professionals.” In giving the impression that all disadvantaged students need is “love, idealism, and martyrdom,” these movies trivialize “not only the difficulties that many real students must overcome, but also the hard-earned skill and tireless effort real teachers must use to help those students succeed.” Along the way, says Moore, they contribute to a political environment in which hardworking, everyday teachers are blamed for schools’ failures, “while their appeals for better and safer workplaces are systematically ignored.”

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