Bad Teacher – Film Analysis
In this comedy, the use of crude humor makes light of the current situation, but if viewers pay close attention, there are key queues dropped through the entire movie that are often associated with the American education system and why we are lagging behind other countries when it comes to standardized scores. As the movie itself states, a large portion of fault comes back onto the teachers, whom we put into the position of educating and influencing our youth, but this is not to say that it is entirely their fault.
With current-day society becoming less censored than in previous generations, children are being exposed to social evils such as drugs, alcohol, and sex at much higher levels and at a much younger age than ever before. Thus, teachers have to find new ways to positively influence students to intrigue learning, and the old “Dick and Jane” and “Run Spot Run” books are becoming an unfeasible tool of the past. With this being said, who do we hold accountable for the poor test scores across the board?
Do we blame media for influencing our youth in a negative sense with the prevalent use of drugs, alcohol, and sex, or do we need to look at the front-line of education and start to grade those who often hold the red pen themselves? Bad Teacher does an excellent job of presenting some of the key issues within the American education system–the biggest three being teacher accountability, media influence, and social pressures of students.
Bad Teacher starts out showing a “hot, sexy” teacher who, according to the speech she gives at the faculty meeting, appears to be very sad about leaving her teaching position and if she could stay, she would. The following scene then cuts to the young teacher as she speeds out of the parking lot in a red BMW, waving her middle finger out the window as her final farewell to the school. The teacher, Ms. Hasley, swears to never return to teaching once her marriage to a millionaire has taken place because she absolutely hated her job and was only teaching for a paycheck.
For me, this is symbolic towards the connection that educators place with money and the salary they earn. In most instances, starting wage for a teacher is not something of bragging status, but what the movie shows repeatedly throughout is that bare minimum work can be done, yet a paycheck will still come week after week. This leads into the main theme of the movie, which surrounds the idea of bad teachers littering our education system, but as we currently stand, there is not much we can do to get rid of them.
One of my favorite quotes from the movie comes from Diaz when she is asked by the gym teacher why she keeps her job, and her response is, “I make salary, I am not held accountable for these kids, and I have the summers off, who wouldn’t want to be a teacher? ” This is a very powerful statement in support of the main theme, because unfortunately all three reasons mentioned are commonly known among the public to be somewhat true in that everyone can think of at least one teacher who probably has the same reasons for teaching as Diaz.
Of course, new teachers cannot start out with the mentality that they can “squeeze by” doing the bare minimum because, until the magic word “tenure” is spoken of, new teachers are at the mercy of yearly contracts, and if expectations are not met, they are shown the door. To emphasize the power the word” tenure” and union power within the education system, the principal appears to be scared at the mention of investigating a teacher who may have been seen smoking a joint and informs the accuser that with such little evidence, the teacher’s union would tear him apart, so no investigation would take place.
In my mind, I feel that if a teacher is accused of doing illegal drugs, regardless of the amount of evidence, an investigation should take place instantly because there is no room for drug users within our education system, and if users are not prosecuted, what message are we sending our youth? Going back to the tenure and teacher union issues, I agree that everyone has the right to unionize in order to protect their self-interests, but the idea surrounding tenure is something that needs to be re-evaluated, and the teacher’s union needs to jump on board in order to get the education system moving in the right direction.
The writers hint at a way in which tenure can be changed, and that is by offering rewards for high student grades instead of the current rule of once tenure is reached, a teacher can keep their position regardless of their efforts in the classroom. The way the movie presents this alternative method is by showing a challenge between the teachers of the school to earn the highest student grades on the state test; winner earning a bonus of $5,700.
This type of evaluation based on student grades can also be taken to the opposite end of the spectrum, and teachers who have unacceptable student scores should be evaluated on their teaching methods, and if seen as being unsatisfactory, fired regardless of the number of years in a school system. This method would not only encourage teachers to give their full efforts to students, but would also hold them accountable if they would choose to perform the “bare minimum” route of teaching.
Although the number of “bad teachers” placed throughout our education system is currently unchecked, it is not the only reason as to why America is on the downswing. Loosely censored media and social norms of the current-day student population play an impacting role on student behavior and their opinion of education. In the first day of Miss Hasley’s class, there are many different student labels presented in the single scene.
There is a group of young girls looking through a recent model shoot of themselves, a nerdy, poet boy staring awkwardly in the background, two class clowns making jokes, and a prissy, know-it-all sitting in the front seat. These labels are not new or uncommon in a school setting, but Bad Teacher takes each type of student and displays the daily stresses they may experience, and how their individual goals in terms of education differ greatly from one another. Starting with the fashion savvy girls, they portray the “popular” crowd of every school and their primary job is to be the “cool” trend-setters for others to follow.
To show they approve of their laid-back teache,r who only shows movies in class, the leader of the group insults the prissy, know-it-all student who is appalled that a movie was being shown, and says very loud, “I don’t mind movies. I think you rock Miss Hasley! ” and all student follow her lead. In this instance, the entire class jumps on the bandwagon which specifically says learning is a waste of time and the “cool” thing to do is watch movies in class. Even though there were probably more students in the class who preferred learning versus a movie marathon, they chose to say nothing in fear of becoming the class outcast.
Another instance in the movie that supports the fact that popular and pretty students don’t cherish education, which is stereotyped among Americans, is when one of the girls’ fathers slips Miss Hasley some money to “help” his daughter get a better grade. Again, this emphasizes that education is not what is important, but in this instance it is money. Another example of a student type and how they view education is through the nerdy poet. In this instance, he loves education and does very well in school, yet he is ridiculed for speaking up or expressing himself because he doesn’t fit into the socially accepted crowd of students.
Because of this denial into school’s society, this type of student generally hides his talent in fear that if others knew of his success, they would make him an even bigger outcast than before, so “flying under the radar” becomes the best option. Again, because society and media determines what is normal for a student, anything that doesn’t fit the picture, such as a poet, becomes the source of bullying and social discrimination, thus the desire to achieve and be successful is diminished.
The boy finally gathers up enough courage to read his love a poem he wrote, but upon finishing, the girl calls him a freak and the whole class joins in. The boy, in response, runs off crying and declares he is never going back to school. Again, the negative experience he had when expressing himself in front of the class will lead him to refraining from similar occurrences in the future by choosing to remain silent, and this is when education takes the back burner and social acceptance becomes more important. The final type of student prevalent in the movie is the prissy, know-it-all girl who sits in the front desk.
This type of student, regardless of what others say, strives to be successful and desires to be better than everyone else. The know-it-all girl consistently says and does things that place her above other,s such as bringing the teacher cookies and taking charge of the fundraiser for a class trip. This girl denies what the media and society says is normal, and even when she catches Miss Hasley smoking a joint in her car, she refuses to rat on her because she worries that her grade may suffer if Miss Hasley would find out.
Even though the know-it-all student strives to be well educated and the best possible student, they also know the importance of the grade and will not do anything, such as turning in a teacher using drugs, that would jeopardize the “A. ” Overall, the American education system has plenty of issues that need to be worked out, but until accountability can be placed on teachers, and until media starts to portray education as being of high importance in society, student scores will continue to be average.