Film Comparison: Taps and Blackboard Jungle
School Images and Problems
©1999 Genevieve Hill
There have been many movies made about teaching and schools. Different movies present schools and methods of teaching in a variety of ways. "Taps" and "Blackboard Jungle" are two such movies. This paper will compare and contrast the above mentioned movies. It will begin with a description of which image of school is depicted in each film. From here, it will neutrally describe the problematic situations integral to each film. It will go on to describe who the problems concern and why it concerns them. Next it will examine proposals to change the problem and consider whether the change proposals have brought about anything to change the problematic situations. The paper will conclude with an analysis of who gains and who loses from the change proposals.
"Taps" most strongly represents the Temple image of schools. "Taps" examines a military academy filmed at Valley Forge. The Academy children begin schooling there at a very young age and continue until high school. Because the military tends to discourage questioning of rules and authority, promotes role models, suppresses dissent, and suppresses variety, the military academy most closely resembles a temple of learning. Breaking the rules at the Academy is regarded as a moral evil.
"Blackboard Jungle" tends to mirror the Town Meeting image of schools. The film takes place in an all boys inner-city high school in New York. Because there are problems with discipline in the school, the principal, teachers, and students are all negotiating for power and control of the school. Each of the above are striving to promote the interests of his group. The principal is struggling to maintain order and prevent chaos. The teachers are striving to maintain control over the behavior of the students throughout the day. The students are working against the teachers and principal to control the resources of the school. There are few consequences for misbehavior and many infractions are tolerated. The above mentioned parties are in a constant struggle to negotiate power for the group that they represent.
Each film has problematic situations that are central to its theme. The problem in "Taps" is that staff and students are upset that Bunker Hill Academy will be sold to a real estate developer who will close it in one year and replace it with condominiums.
The problem in "Blackboard Jungle" is that the disruptive behavior (violence, destruction of school property, calling out, and ignoring the teacher) of the majority of students prevents educators from teaching their lessons.
Once the problem is determined, the stakeholders must be identified. There are many stakeholders for each of the above mentioned problems. The stakeholders in "Taps" are the students of Bunker Hill Academy, The staff of Bunker Hill, the parents of the students at Bunker Hill, the Real Estate Developers and the general public. The stakeholders in "Blackboard Jungle" include the principal, teachers, students, parents of students, and the general public. This list includes those who are concerned with the problem as well as those who ought to be concerned.
An analysis of why each of the above parties is concerned will be written in table format to aid the reader's understanding of the paper.
1st Party- Students
Selling of Bunker Hill Academy to Real Estate Developer is a problem.
We won't be able to graduate from Bunker Hill.
We will have to go to another school where we don't have any friends and don't know the teachers.
We won't get the respect that we automatically get for our ranks and positions at Bunker Hill.
2nd Party- Staff
We won't have jobs after another year.
We need that money to support ourselves and our families.
We'll never get another job that values honesty and integrity like they do at Bunker Hill.
3rd Party- Parents of Students
We will have to find another school to send our kids to.
We don't like our neighborhood schools.
If our kids go to neighborhood schools, they will have to live at home and we don't have time to be with them every day.
4th Party- Real Estate Developers
We wanted to buy the land and close Bunker Hill immediately. We gave them one year to find another place to go to school.
Now the students might fight our decision to close the academy.
We don't want to have to deal with any problems- we just want to buy the land so we can develop it and make money.
5th Party- the General Public
We want the academy to stay open because we like that the land is not developed in that area. We don't want condominiums in our town.
There will be trouble in our town when the students try to resist the selling of the Academy.
We don't want children getting hurt for something we don't want (development) in our town in the first place.
1st Party- the Principal
I am concerned about the discipline problem because students who misbehave prevent others from learning.
If students are not learning, they will not do well on standardized tests.
If students do not do well on tests, our school will not receive extra funding from the district and I will have parents and school board administrators on my back.
2nd Party- the Teachers
When students are disruptive, I am unable to teach my class.
I went into teaching because I want to teach and I am unable to do so.
If I am unable to teach, my students will not do well and I may lose my job.
I am afraid I won't be able to get another job if I can't teach.
3rd Party- the Students
We misbehave because school is so boring and causing trouble is the only way to have any excitement.
If we behave, we look bad to the other members of the gang.
If we start to pay attention in class, we may not be able to handle the work. If we misbehave, the attention will be on our behavior and not our intellect.
4th Party- Parents of Students
The teachers and principals of the school have no control over the students.
They bug us all of the time about the problems our kids cause.
If the disruption keeps up, our children will get expelled and then we will have to deal with them and their trouble all day long.
5th Party- the General Public
If the students are out of control in school, then they will be out of control on the streets.
If they are out of control on the streets, we fear for our safety.
If we fear for our safety, we won't be able to go out and neither will our children.
Some of the stakeholders propose changes to solve the problems they are faced with while others do not. The following table illustrates the changes proposed.
|Students of Bunker Hill||Staff of Bunker Hill||Parents of Students||Real Estate Developers||General Public|
|The students take over the school and arm themselves to win a meeting with the General, a commission to study the real estate interests, and a meeting with officers and board to discuss alternatives to closing the school.||The staff are not really shown as being involved in a fight for the school to stay open except for the General and he is sick in the hospital.||The parents of students are willing to go along with the closing of the school. They just want their children to end the takeover so they do not get hurt. They try using a bullhorn to encourage their children to abandon the takeover.||The real estate developers hold onto their proposal to sell the school.||The general public proposes calling in the National Guard to end the student takeover. They want the students who are involved in the protest to be arrested.|
|the Principal||the Teachers||the Students||the Parents||the Public|
|The Principal wants the teachers to handle the problems so he does not have to deal with them.||The teachers want to meet to develop ways to stimulate the interest of the students and to try to enlist the help of the gang leaders to encourage the other students to behave.||The majority of students want to learn but insist that teachers prove that they respect them by presenting them with interesting and challenging lessons.||The parents propose no changes in the film.||The public wants the school and the police to arrest students who are causing trouble so that the streets remain safe.|
The movie, "Taps," had a tragic ending for all who are involved except, possibly, the real estate developers. Much had been done by the students, although they did not meet the goal they set out to attain. The students set out to fight to keep their school open in the tradition of honor, dignity, and duty which was set by the General. The General was the school superintendent as well as a mentor to many of the boys. The boys thought that seizing the school and protecting it with the use of weapons would give them the power to keep their school open. The plan backfired when one student was seriously burned and two young boys were killed.
Although the students were unable to keep their school open, they did learn some serious lessons about life with the death of the General. They realized that they went about their plan in the wrong way. In trying to please the General, they probably disappointed him. Ultimately, the boys were unable to achieve their goal and the real estate developers would seek the original benefits they set out to win.
"Blackboard Jungle" was more successful in its strife to implement change in the school. Through meetings and perseverance, one teacher, Mr. Ford, was able to connect with a gang leader who was respected by many students. This connection came after hard work and many failed teaching efforts. Mr. Ford 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 gang leader. The gang leader in turn put the word out to the other students to work hard and behave in this teacher's class.
Two students remained unconvinced of why they should now behave. It seemed probable that the principal would have these two students removed from the school. Other teachers shared in Mr. Ford's success by stating that the momentum created in Mr. Ford's English class had carried over into their own classes. This movie had a positive outcome and concrete success with the discipline was noted. Continued hard work would be necessary for the positive change to continue.
This paper will conclude with an analysis of who gains and who loses from the change implemented at the outcome of the films.
|Indicate costs and benefits||change: school is still sold to real estate developers; students learn a valuable life lesson|
|1st Party- students of Bunker Hill||Gain and Lose: Although students are unable to keep their school open, they learn by experience that violence is not successful. They should have a better method of trying to solve problems next time they are faced with a crisis situation.|
|2nd Party- staff of Bunker Hill||Lose: Their school will be closed and they will be out of a job.|
|3rd Party- parents of students||Gain and Lose:Most of them get their children back safely, however, they will have to take time to find new schools for their children to attend.|
|4th Party- real estate developers||Gain: They will still buy the land that the school is on and make money by developing the land for condominiums.|
|5th Party- general public||Gain and Lose: They are happy that the crisis and chance for violence are over. However, they may be upset that the tradition of Bunker Hill Academy is over and that the land will be developed for commercial use.|
|Indicate costs and benefits||change: discipline problem is reduced or eliminated by respect between gang leader and teacher as well as by meaningful lessons|
|1st Party- the Principal||Gain: Parents and administration will be off of his back due to student learning and reduction of discipline problems.|
|2nd Party- the Teachers||Gain: Lack of discipline problems translate to allowing teachers to teach and all students to have a chance to learn without constant classroom disruption. Safety for students and teachers is also improved.|
|3rd Party- the Students||Gain: Respect has been earned, class becomes more interesting and meaningful, and higher education is more probable.|
|4th Party- parents of students||Gain: Students will not be expelled and parents need not seek alternative placement.|
|5th Party- general public||Gain: Public safety may be improved.|
In conclusion, one sees the various problems encountered in schools. "Taps" and "Blackboard Jungle" are two films which illustrate the myriad of problems that schools can face. The model used in this paper allows one to try to objectify a problem and propose solutions. The solutions may not always turn out the way that is expected. However, this model is useful in describing the situation without emotion, identifying stakeholders and their intrinsic interests, analyzing solutions, and uncovering the costs and benefits available for all involved.