Editorial - Rose-tinted spectacles and the silver screen

22nd November 2013 at 00:00

"Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies."

Andy Dufresne, Shawshank Prison

What does the list of teachers' top 100 favourite films tell us about the profession? This is the first question that springs to mind when one casts ones eyes over this week's main feature. Because - although it is most certainly just a bit of fun - non-scientific, subjective surveys can sometimes tell us more about the psyche of teachers than so- called rigorous research.

For me, the list is one that flies in the face of those detractors all too willing to paint classroom professionals as a bunch of cynical defeatists ground down by the uselessness of it all.

A great number of teachers, it would seem, whether they recognise it in themselves or not, value hope above most things. Not hopeless causes, but hope. Achievement against the odds is the overarching theme of three of the top five films: The Shawshank Redemption, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. That and the refusal to give up.

(The other two we'll call the exceptions that prove the rule and, after all, who doesn't like mindless gangster violence andor schmaltzy 1980s dance-based romance to help wash down all this hopefulness?)

What other characteristics can we distil from the list? Certainly there's a heavy dose of romance, not just of the aforementioned lovey-dovey type found in Dirty Dancing at number three, but also the romanticism of Forrest Gump and It's a Wonderful Life, both of which are in the top 10.

And let's not ignore the fun - and love of childhood - that can be detected throughout this list. Near the top are The Princess Bride and Back to the Future, films aimed originally at a younger audience but which in fact speak to the inner child in all of us.

A dangerous number of musicals have also made it into the top 50, but it might be best to brush over that indiscretion.

Perhaps most telling, though, is the noticeable lack of films about teaching. Where is the endearing Goodbye, Mr Chips? Where is the gritty reality of Half Nelson? Where is the sheer idiotic joy of School of Rock? Where, oh where, is To Sir, with Love?

What can we conclude from this? That teachers don't like to take their work home with them? That the last thing they want is to sit and watch pedagogy being misrepresented by Hollywood? That they simply can't stand beaming school life into their living room when there's a pile of unmarked essays on the coffee table?

Probably none of the above.

All we can take away from it is that teachers are ordinary folk who like nothing more after a tough day at the chalkface than to watch some escapist fun that leaves them marginally happier than they were when they got back from work.

And that they are, for the most part, hopeless optimists.*


* Just a quick footnote: in researching this leader, I googled "Michael Gove favourite film". Turns out that one of the education secretary for England's top movies is Educating Rita. What does that tell us about his psyche? Answers on a postcard please.


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