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The Movie That Changed My Life, And May Change The World

The Movie That Changed My Life, And May Change The World

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Published by Bill Allin
Some things change history, often long past when they were first presented. This article documents the first film and song in a series of events that will eventually change human history. Find the home site of author Bill Allin at http://billallin.com
Some things change history, often long past when they were first presented. This article documents the first film and song in a series of events that will eventually change human history. Find the home site of author Bill Allin at http://billallin.com

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Published by: Bill Allin on Jan 31, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Movie That Changed My Life, And May Change The World
If you plan for one year, plant rice.If you plan for ten years, plant trees.If you plan for 100 years, educate mankind.- Chinese proverb1967 proved a banner year for young movie star Sidney Poitier, withthree major films in a single year to his credit. The least popular movieat the time was the British school flick
To Sir, With Love
. The song of the same name, sung by Scottish actor/singer Lulu hit number 1 on theUS pop Billboard charts and was rated the best pop single of 1967 bybillboard.While the music of the song was spectacular (I could have lived inDreamland with that song), its lyrics may have ruined the extremelyimportant message made by the film. "How can you thank someonewho has taken you from crayons to perfume" made parents believe themovie was about a lovesick teenage girl who had a crush on herteacher, and who needed another one of those? Are teachers reallyteaching about perfume in school? The movie took place in an East London high school where the seniorclass wanted nothing more than to get out of school and find jobs. Thecurriculum had so little bearing on their future (Denham: "I've me ownbarra when I'm finished here") that disruption of class became theirprimary objective in life. New teacher Mark Thackeray (Poitier) had nomore success than his predecessors. Those kids were moremisbehaved than any teacher deserves. They took in nothing of thelessons anyone taught. Then Thackeray had an inspiration. Denham needed to know moreabout life than just how to conduct business from a fruit and vegetablestand (barrow). They needed life skills. When he changed his teachingfrom "This is the grammar and arithmetic the school wants me to teachyou" to a "This is what you need to know to get through each day of your life" style, he had their attention. The misbehaviour stopped likemagic. Of course it worked out beautifully, it was a movie. But itsmessage was critically important for me then and it's criticallyimportant for each of us today. (I became a teacher and studied thesociology of education.)No child starts out life wanting to be antisocial, to be a misfit. Beforeanything else, they want to know what they need to get through theirlives. They want to know what problems they will face as they getolder and how to cope with them. They want to know how to make
friends, how to patch up broken friendships, how to find a mate, how toact with a boyfriend or girlfriend, what skills they need to know in theirheads in order to survive the working world. They need to know thesurvival skills of adulthood. To most kids, social and emotional needs take precedence overintellectual needs and sports. If they can't find answers to theirquestions on these subjects, they can't bring themselves to care aboutthe school curriculum. They don't care much about learning to read if their parents fight at home every night. Sometimes they knowinherently that they need something, but don't know what. Theyexpect their parents or teachers to provide that information withouttheir having to ask. When it doesn't come, they object. Theymisbehave. They bully. They steal. They take drugs. They do whateverthey can to make up for the lack that has turned into a permanenthurt. They are broken. Why try to fix broken people if you can prevent themfrom breaking in the first place? Turning It Aroundmakes clearproposals that will prevent kids from breaking, from becoming socialproblems for their communities and heartaches for their parents. Thebook has answers, solutions that are virtually without cost, but requiresome changes in what teachers are allowed to teach, what they areallowed to tell the kids whose futures are in their hands.
To Sir, With Love
was far from the last attempt the film industry madeto try to turn school curriculum away from traditional lessons that kidsknow they will never use to material that every one can and will use intheir lives.
Why Shoot the Teacher?
The Principal
Stand and Deliver 
Lean on Me
Dead Poets Society 
Dangerous Minds
Mr. Holland's Opus
Music of the Heart 
Take the Lead,
The Ron Clark Story 
Sister Act 2
picked up on the sametheme.Still, in most school jurisdictions, curriculum remains mired in the 19thcentury. Discipline is worse than ever before. The admonishment to"return to the basics" has failed. The basics of life are not reading,writing and arithmetic, but life skills. If you don't know how to copewith your problems, what good will it do to know the rules of grammaror how to do trigonometry? What good is a job with high pay if half ormore of it goes to the spouse you couldn't manage to live with becauseyou didn't know how? The students who were in high school in the late 1960s and succeedingdecades have become adults and now constitute the mainconstituency that operate our companies, that elect our political

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Bill Allin added this note
Thank you Jed. It is the only way that will work.
Johnald Chau liked this
Bill Allin added this note
The students in the movie were (and were intended to convey the message that they were) out of control, not learning anything. They had no agenda of their own, except to disrupt. Their disruption did not work for previous teachers (who were driven out of the school) but Sidney Poitier's character figured out what they needed and wanted. Unfortunately, over 40 years later very little has changed.
Adelaide Dupont added this note
Are you sure those students took in nothing of the lessons which were taught? Were they not creating their own content and curriculum? Disruption is a powerful classroom tool. (and life tool). But, no, you're right. It doesn't have to remain a mess.
Bill Allin added this note
Thanks Jed. As always, you and I are on the same track.
Jed Diamond added this note
Bill, thanks for the memory and reminding us that educating our children is the best way to insure a good life for us all.
Alexandra liked this
Adelaide Dupont liked this

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