Showing posts with label Movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Movies. Show all posts

Monday, May 11, 2009

Teacher's Pet

The role of the teacher can be best understood as someone who provides the student with two kinds of knowledge. Following Gilbert Ryle, these kinds of knowledge are knowing how and knowing that. A teacher who “knows how” may teach a special form of craftsmanship (knowing how to make, build, play, design, or draw something), or may teach a specialized vocation (how to install, repair, rebuild, or fix something, for instance). But the form of knowledge of knowing that is different than knowing how: just because I know how to ride a bicycle, for instance, doesn’t mean that you know how to ride a bicycle, while on the other hand, you and I may both know that it is cold, rainy, and windy outside, and therefore not the best time to learn to ride a bicycle. Most teachers are entrusted with their students’ minds, to teach students the way to know that something is true or false (“practical reason” or rationality): mathematics and formal logic, for instance, but also history and politics (“political reason”), and so on.

Within the institution of schooling, teachers are the people entrusted with the minds of students. Hence teaching is, as Tracy Kidder has observed in Among Schoolchildren (1989), one of the few occupations in which any form of measurable success rests on the skill and inspiration of those people “at the bottom of the institutional pyramid” (p. 52). In this sense, teaching is much like police work, and perhaps it’s no wonder, therefore, that both types of people are depicted as virtuous and dedicated, on the one hand, or tyrannical and hypocritical authority figures on the other. These contradictory representations of the teacher are reflected in popular music, in which the male or female teacher often has a special form of attraction distinct from the (repressive) institution itself. The teacher has been the subject of erotic fantasies, in which the pupil desires the teacher to teach a form of knowing how that is not the academic subject itself (“Abigail Beecher,” “Teacher’s Pet”), a figure of hypocrisy (“Society’s Child”), a brutal authority figure instilling mindless submission to power (“Another Brick in the Wall”), or a highly idealized father figure (“To Sir With Love”). Books have been written exploring the depiction of teachers in the movies (see Ann C. Paietta, Teachers in the Movies; McFarland, 2007), and while I know of no book doing the same for popular music, no doubt the range of representations is quite similar. The first movie to link rock music, the school, and the teacher is, of course, Blackboard Jungle (released March 1955), the film that, as Thomas Doherty has observed (Teenagers and Teenpics, p. 76), was also the film that alerted Hollywood filmmakers to the way rock music could contribute to a movie’s appeal. No rock recordings could have represented the teacher in any fashion prior to 1955.

Songs About Teachers And The Lessons Learned:
Abba – “When I Kissed the Teacher”
Chuck Berry – “School Day”
Alice Cooper – “School’s Out”
Freddie Cannon – “Abigail Beecher”
Doris Day – “Teacher’s Pet”
Elton John – “Teacher I Need You”
Janis Ian – “Society’s Child”
Hall & Oates – “Adult Education”
Lulu – “To Sir With Love”
Pink Floyd – “Another Brick in the Wall”
The Police – “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”
Van Halen – “Hot For Teacher”