Last night, I was watching a classic 1980’s film, Lean On Me, featuring Morgan Freeman. That was the first time I had viewed the movie since I became an informal student of Class/Socioeconomics and Education issues. Viewing this movie through those lenses was quite eye-opening for me. The film was released in 1989, but was prophetic of today’s urban public education mess of school districts being threaten with state takeover for consistently failing state assessments. Joe Clark is a brash, rude, take-no-prisoners No Child Left Behind School principal in a rough and tough school populated by very poor, black, Latino and White students from working class and welfare families. Through-out the film, Joe Clark repeated refers to these students and their families as the sufferers of classism that “turns Blacks into a permanent underclass”. View the Clip to see for yourself.
And he sees his style of reform as the only way to save these children from crappy lives plagued by un-wanted teen pregnancies, crime, violence, jail, welfare, hopelessness, failing relationships, unstable economics, and early death from such lifestyles. In a keeping it real moment, just before the state tests, he explains to the kids how everyone thinks the students are worthless “niggers, spicks, and poor white trash”. How everyone has given up on them and doesn’t expect anything from them. And true to its genre, Crazy Joe Clark energizes the students and convinces them to prove all the classist nay-sayers wrong. View the Clip to see just what I mean.
Let me just say I love Joe Clark-Coach Carter genre of movies. They show us that 1) education is a necessity to achieve success, 2) some people have the deck stacked way against them, but that is no excuse for not wanting and expecting better of yourself, and 3) spirit-guided tough love can save the hardest knuckled head. G
Big Ups to All of the Crazy Joes of Education and Juvenile Correction!