Juvenile Delinquency In The Classroom Essay

1634 words - 7 pages

In depicting juvenile delinquency in the classroom, a few film directors portrayed novice teachers' desire to reach what the school system customarily labeled as "problem students." These films illustrate that these students are often categorized quickly and unfairly, and hopeful intervention by a few caring and zealous teachers is enough to change their lives and attitudes for the better.

In the black and white 1955 film "Blackboard Jungle," Mr. Dadier (played by Glenn Ford) was an idealistic teacher on his first job in a tough urban mostly white male high school. The characters were dressed in clothing of the time (jeans rolled up at the cuffs, tee shirts, bow ties, baseball caps) and the boys wore their hair in the Elvis Presley pompadour style. The students were led by a gang leader, Artie West, whom they looked up to and feared. Mr. Dadier was faced with a bunch of rough juvenile delinquents, fellow staff members who were unresponsive and indifferent, and a principal who refused to admit the school had discipline problems. Sidney Portier, for example, played a student who found no one really cared--students and teachers alike--so he just took up space until he could drop out of school. Mr. Dadier, however, was determined to turn these students around: "Yeah, I've been beaten up, but I'm not beaten. I'm not beaten, and I'm not quittin."

This film focused on a teacher who was willing to fight for the students and find ways to reach them with tactics other than just typical pedagogy or academic discipline. Where it is commonly believed that students growing up in poor families seem to be labeled as juvenile delinquents and not much is expected of them, Mr. Dadier tried to change this perception by showing his students that he cared about all of them: "I'm a teacher. My pupils are the kind you don't turn your back on, even in class!" Through private meetings and much perseverance, Mr. Dadier made a connection with Artie West, which occurred after hard work and many failed teaching efforts. Mr. Dadier finally realized how to breathe life into his lessons so that they became meaningful to his students. He also showed respect for them by allowing them to showcase their talents in the Christmas program. These two strategies combined were enough to earn the respect of the classroom's gang leader. Artie West, in turn, put the word out to the other students to work hard and behave in this teacher's class. Other teachers shared in Mr. Dadier's success by stating that the momentum created in Mr. Dadier's English class had carried over into their own classes. This movie had a positive outcome. Continued hard work would be necessary for the positive change to continue. "Blackboard Jungle" opened and closed with Bill Haley and the Comet's "Rock Around the Clock", which helped stir quite a ruckus - so much so, the film was banned from many theatres. But the film's central point was nevertheless clear: students who we think are...

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