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"Can't you understand that nothing is more important than a good education?"
"Except the basic right to it."

These lines are spoken by two of the adult, and therefore less interesting, characters in the one movie I loved more than any other as a teenager, one designed to appeal to teen angst and budding lefty passion: 1990's Pump Up the Volume. I hadn't seen it in years, but Monday night it was on TV and it turns out I still know a not-inconsequential fraction of its lines a beat before they're spoken. More, while I'm perhaps clearer-eyed about the movie's overall quality, I'm also moved to make a pitch for it through adult eyes and in the context of American education today.

More than 22 years later, these lines, perhaps not unsurprisingly, seem much more central than they did when the movie came out. But it's not just because I've grown and changed and teen angst is less central to my life. It's because the conflict laid out in those two lines has moved to the center of American education, and the wrong side is ascendant. (Spoilers follow, if the concept of a spoiler is relevant to a movie this old.)

In Pump Up the Volume, Christian Slater plays a high school student whose parents have moved him from the east coast to suburban Arizona. He expresses his alienation and anger as a pirate radio DJ called Hard Harry, becoming unintentionally popular among his fellow students. But while Hard Harry, per his name, engages in a lot of masturbation humor and dick jokes more generally, he also becomes a voice for teenagers being abused by each other and, most of all, by their school. The school administration is kicking out "problem" students who will drag down SAT scores, while covering that up to keep government money coming in, and Harry (real name Mark) becomes a catalyst for uncovering that.

Let's be clear: There's a lot in Pump Up the Volume that's cheesy—the FCC commissioner showing up in a stretch limo, two kids who've been kicked out of school showing up at the same moment for dramatic confrontations with administrators—and a lot that's right—the alternating bravado and awkwardness of teenagers, the loneliness that you don't know at the time is temporary. And a lot of what's cheesy—"don't you see, you're the voice?"—is also right, because in that alternating bravado and awkwardness, teenagers can be cheesy. (She says, quite possibly having found that "you're the voice" line inspiring at age 13.)

But I still find it compelling on two levels. For one thing, it's about the move from isolation and individualism to community, to collective action, even. Harry initially rejects his role as "the voice," rejects the idea that he has responsibility to anyone else even as students write to him for advice about their most painful problems. He ends by understanding himself as having a responsibility to his listeners. Similarly, students who begin listening to his show alone in their homes start calling each other, talking it over at school, pulling up their cars at the place reception is the best. In their cars, they begin the movie fragmented into their social groups, with contempt for each other. They end up in solidarity, troublemakers and star students having come to see shared interests with each other.

But beyond that, the story about what education is and should be is probably a more direct echo of today's education debates than it was then. Pump Up the Volume is about a test score-driven high school that will expel students who might drag down its scores. Sound familiar? Because that's what many, many charter schools do these days. Not all of them, but many of the charters that brag the most loudly about their high college acceptance rates and high graduation rates are just talking about the students that are left after the ones seen as disciplinary or academic problems have been pushed out. It's true in New York:

As it turns out, high-performing charter middle schools in the New York City also have extremely high rates of attrition in their testing cohorts :
  • Eight of the thirteen schools have enough data to allow us to examine cohort size between 5th grade, when students enter, and 8th grade, when they graduate. In four of these schools, more than 25% of the students vanished from the cohort. Of these four schools, three saw cohort declines of 30%, and one lost nearly 40%. All of these charters have been nationally or locally acclaimed as great schools that are in high demand. The average attrition for this group of eight is 23%.
  • These attrition rates contrast starkly with what I found in regular public schools, where the size of cohorts tends to remain the same or rise.
And Chicago. And "Massachusetts revised its charter regulations to require new charters to replace students in certain grades" because:
Boston’s Commonwealth charter schools have significantly weak “promoting power,” that is, the number of seniors is routinely below 60 percent of the freshmen enrolled four years earlier. looking at it another way, for every five freshmen enrolled in Boston’s charter high schools in the fall of 2008 there were only two seniors: Senior enrollment was 42 percent of freshmen enrollment. in contrast, for every five freshmen enrolled in the Boston Public Schools that fall there were four seniors: Senior enrollment was 81 percent of freshmen enrollment.
The SEED School in Washington, D.C. has been widely lauded as a miracle of 100 percent graduation rates. Here's what that looked like for the class of 2011:
Bar graph showing attrition in the SEED School of Washington DC's 2011 graduating class, which began with more than 60 students in 9th grade and ended up with fewer than 40 in 12th grade.
Similar patterns can be found at charter schools in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Again, it's not necessarily all charters, but it's enough. In 1990, kicking students out to make a school look better on paper was a movie plot. In 2013, it's an educational model supported by politicians around the country in the name of "choice." They claim that's the choice of the students and their parents to go to these schools with their miraculous 100 percent graduation rates, but really, as is so often the case in politics today, the choice is given to those above, to the billionaire-backed charters, of which kids to education and which to kick to the curb.

Pump Up the Volume introduced me to Leonard Cohen and Concrete Blonde and the Pixies and more. But it also had this conversation, between the principal who's been kicking students out and the school commissioner who's starting to figure out that there's a problem in this school:

Principal: "You can't run a top school with troublemakers in the mix."
Commissioner: "Okay, so what exactly is a troublemaker?"
Principal: "Someone who has no interest in education."
Commissioner: "Oh, come on, that includes every teenager I know."
Principal: "Can't you understand that nothing is more important than a good education?"
Commissioner: "Except the basic right to it."
Principal: "The point is, I have the highest average SAT scores in the state."
Commissioner: "Yeah, but how?"

These are basic concepts and questions that the most powerful figures in American education seem to have abandoned.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Seriously Seeking Cinema and What are you watching?.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So ... (28+ / 0-)

    it's interesting .. that this movie talks about the Michelle Rhee's of the world .. 20 years before she became the grifter and scam artist she became

  •  Oh, that makes me want to go see that again, been (3+ / 0-)

    years. I expect it will hold up better than Slater's 2012 movie Playback. I just read in TIME that it grossed $264. No, I didn't leave off any zeroes.

    stay together / learn the flowers / go light - Gary Snyder

    by Mother Mags on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:09:45 PM PST

    •  I think it holds up extremely well. (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, noplot, Rimjob, Mother Mags, Sarenth, BYw

      I've watched it about 3 times in the past six months.

      One thing I appreciate about this movie is how much of its moment it is. Putting aside this diary's very astute observations about how the story's political background is incredibly prescient regarding today's issues. I think the characters themselves are so extremely of their moment. Contrast PUTV to, say, the Breakfast Club, which seems, to me at least, to really deal with more timeless issues and is merely set in it's moment. Most teenagers feel misunderstood in the Breakfast Club mode, but the mixture of loneliness and cynicism on display in the PUTV is much more specific and finely wrought.

      •  I'd throw in Gleaming the Cube which is the only (6+ / 0-)

        eighties movie I know of that treats asians as real people from actual countries and not just vaguely "asian".

        Plus some great skateboarders.

        But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that Pump Up the Volume had a huge effect on me in so many ways.

        The revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

        by AoT on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:37:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've never gotten to see Gleaming The Cube (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          papa monzano, AoT

          but two other, lesser known, Christian Slater movies that you might enjoy are the FANTASTIC "Untamed Heart" (co-starring Marisa Tomei and Rosie Perez) and the still pretty good and almost-impossible-to-find "The Legend Of Billie Jean" (starring a young Helen Slater). Like PUTV, both of those films deal with some serious issues that weren't really well-addressed in mass entertainment of the time: class, gender politics, etc.

        •  Incredibly hard to find (0+ / 0-)

          I used to rent the VHS all the time but could never get the DVD. Always heard there was a very small release and nothing since. You can get it on Amazon for $90 but that's just exorbitant.

          Loved Pump Up The Volume too.

          "I chose to change facts, reality, and the meaning of words, in order to make a much larger point." - Paul Ryan John Oliver

          by SC Lib on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 12:40:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I never saw it, but now I think I ought to (8+ / 0-)

    This business of teaching to the test is one of the reasons so many people are so damned dumb about so many things in this country right now.

    I must be dreaming...

    by murphy on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:13:33 PM PST

    •  It's definitely worth it... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, Sarenth

      I remember a classroom in it with a sign "Only 240 Days to SATs!"  That's an indication of how test-focused the school was.  Interesting young characters, great music (do I still have the soundtrack?  Checked downstairs and yes, I do), and it somehow just connected with me same way it did with Laura (except I was eight years older, and high school was thankfully a fuzzy memory).  I was so into the film when it came out that I fell pretty hard for Samantha Mathis and saw nearly everything she did for a few years.

      Yes, including Super Mario Bros..  Everybody knows, indeed.

  •  That and Heathers were the defining films (11+ / 0-)

    of my teenaged years.

    •  "I Love My Dead Gay Son" (6+ / 0-)

      'Heathers' and 'Pump Up The Volume' make interesting '80s bookends, especially when it comes to the issue of teen suicide.

      Over at the A.V. Club, they once had an article contrasting 'Heathers' and John Hughes' 'The Breakfast Club.'

      Critic Pauline Kael once called John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club "a movie about a bunch of stereotypes who complain that other people see them as stereotypes," thus distilling an entire career in a single sentence. Hughes’ genius was generalizing the teenage experience enough that everyone thought his movies spoke to them: No teenager fit the exact mold of The Nerd, The Jock, The Princess, etc., but they could see pieces of themselves in every one, and could identify with the angst percolating within each character. And high-school movies post-Hughes have followed the same template, with social complexities and the quirks of individual behavior broadened to a form of cafeteria tribalism where everyone is neatly categorized. There’s some truth to his template—Hughes struck a chord with people, or the Oscars wouldn’t have spent half its 2010 telecast paying homage to him—but only because the net was cast so wide.

      Arriving at the end of the ’80s, the deliciously nasty black comedy Heathers works as a critique of Hughes’ brand of high-school movie: It inflates these same stereotypes until they explode. The caste system present in all of these films, with popular kids at the top and nerds on the bottom, here becomes an endless, ruthless, Darwinian struggle that not even murder after murder after murder can resolve. And the types aren’t just present, they’re interchangeable: The ruling clique are all pretty girls named Heather, and the jocks skulk around in varsity jackets, calling people fags. Heathers also has real characters, who rebel in a dark way against the status quo, but it’s smart about recognizing the clichés of high-school movies and satirizing them to the hilt, all while tapping into the genuine frustration of students who are pressured to conform at all costs. Its Westerburg High School looks like no high school and every high school, like The Breakfast Club with even more grotesquely cartoonish dimensions.

      •  I loved them both. (0+ / 0-)

        Heathers was my (suburban boy) introduction to cow-tipping. Not to minimize the serious issues, but both films stand on their own.

      •  Heathers was incredible (0+ / 0-)

        Teen angst now has a body count.  As deep a the Breakfast Club without the syrup.

        "I love my dead gay son"

        The expresion of total unconditional love as contrasted to conditional opportunistic pairings.

        The mistake is thinking that either are more than allegory.  This is why I like more explicit fantasy.  There is no expectation for the world to be that way, so no disappointment when it is not.  Like Rocky Horror.  Isn't it pretty to think so.

  •  I saw it again the same night (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    noplot, Wednesday Bizzare, AoT, ZenTrainer, BYw

    One of the threads that struck me again as well done by that film - you sort of mention - the teenage romantic awkwardness. One scene in particular - Nora and Mark are at school the day after they hang out at his house the night before & there is a minute long wordless onscreen interaction that so beautifully sums up the romantic awkwardness of youth. Sometimes cheesy teen movies that don't necessarily age well have profound moments - or as you note in this piece, have interesting policy relevance.

    •  I remember that too... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wednesday Bizzare, lucid

      and how realistic it felt when I saw it.  I didn't date much in high school (not many takers for a liberal who liked odd movies in Baton Rouge, LA in the mid-1980s), but somehow that wordless scene with their heads moving around each other and their lips eventually meeting is like nothing else I've ever seen in a teen-oriented film (and perhaps in any other film, period).  (And let's give credit to Allan Moyle, who wrote and directed the picture.)

      Flashback:  now I remember that I actually bought the novelization to the film.  Man, was I in deep...

  •  Free Radio Now!!! (5+ / 0-)

    I might or might not have had a low power FM transmitter capable of broadcasting a couple of miles when I was younger ;P

    "The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian... America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance." The Real Ron Paul

    by 815Sox on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:24:58 PM PST

  •  Great 'cheesy' movie that sticks with you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I last saw it probably 15-20 years ago, and I remember it well. Probably Slater's best acting job, unless you prefer his over-the-cliff channeling of Nicholson in "Heathers" (yes, I did like it even if he did approach Shatner excess as the movie went on).

  •  There's a version of "Everybody Knows" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, ZenTrainer

    As in Leonard Cohen, that was in the movie, but the version on the soundtrack was different (it has the Concrete Blonde version, which is not what I heard when I saw the movie in the theater). Which annoyed me, because I really liked the version that was actually played in the theater. I wonder what version is on the DVD?

    Conservatives believe evil comes from violating rules. Liberals believe evil comes from violating each other.

    by tcorse on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:26:41 PM PST

  •  As far as the education meme (5+ / 0-)

    I was just "rifted" out of the public school system. I won't go back there. The career has already driven me into one nervous breakdown and I think I was heading for a second. The first was because one of my favorite students was murdered because of an entirely preventable altercation that started on school grounds, the second from the beyond-ridiculous workload combined with the 2nd and 3rd jobs I had to work to make ends meet. Complete and total insanity. Teaching is a calling, for sure, but unfortunately, I have to say that you're a damn fool for going into it, at least if you intend on teaching in most US public systems.

    •  When people tell me (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'd make a great teacher, I have to tell them no, I wouldn't.  I don't have that much patience for bullshit.  I left public school just as No Child Left Behind became implemented, and it damned near destroyed my school.  We weren't the best in the State, but we, on the whole, had passionate teachers who pushed us to be more than we were, and to be more than where we came from/what our home life/neighborhoods were.

      There is no more time for that now.  You teach to the test or you're out on your ass.  Or your whole school is.

      "You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind." -Morpheus, The Matrix

      by Sarenth on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 12:32:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What the hell happened to Christian Slater anyway? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sharon Wraight, mrkvica

    He was an A-list star for a long time...then seemed to sort of slip away about a decade ago. I checked his IMDB and his last big-budget starring role was Windtalkers in 2002.

    He's done a ton of stuff since, but mostly smaller, indy stuff and some TV. Nothing wrong with that, and he might be happier than he was as a top-line guy. Just curious if it was a conscious decision on his part or just fate.

    He did have an interesting role in a small film a few years ago called "He Was a Quiet Man", about a nondescript office worker who becomes a hero after saving his co-worker guessed it, an office mass-shooter.

    From the description:

    A troubled loner, Bob Maconel, imagines blowing up the tower in Los Angeles where he works. He takes a revolver to his office intent on killing colleagues, and then himself. At home, he holds conversations with his fish, who encourage him to do it. His supervisor picks on him. As he's screwing his courage to the sticking place, he drops a bullet; while on the floor looking for it, another colleague does exactly what Bob has been planning. Bob emerges a hero and the one colleague he likes, a woman with a bright smile, is severely wounded.
    •  maybe sometimes people just want to get away (0+ / 0-)

      from that BS

      This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

      by certainot on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:45:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  breakin in (0+ / 0-)

      quirky show, lots of fun, (obviously) cancelled now. Slater looked like he was having a blast rehashing his own old tropes in it.

      he was also part of the lowest box office weekend last year with the film "Playback".

      at least it's not jail.

      If only Michael Phelps hadn't smoked that pot...imagine what he could have accomplished with motivation and good lung capacity.

      by papa monzano on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 06:27:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  'Over The Edge' (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What happens if you're a teenager, it's the 1970s and your parents move you to a new planned community with nothing but a rec center that closes at six in the evening? Drugs, death, and explosions at school if 1979's 'Over the Edge' is to be believed.

    The movie was one of the inspirations for Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video.

    If 'Harold and Maude,' 'Fast Times At Ridgemont High' and 'Boyz N The Hood' all took the pulse of a particular generation’s youth, you’d have to look no further than Over the Edge to get an EKG reading on the 1970s. Maybe it was a sign of things to come that the movie changed its title from 'On the Edge' to 'OVER the Edge' by the time it was finished. By today’s standards, this film could be aired on the ABC Family network; teenage sex is absentee, what drug use we see is portrayed for comic effect and other than a police shooting, the violence is committed against parked cars. But this raucous little flick doesn’t depend on shock value to achieve greatness. Over the Edge rises above its B-movie roots and endures not only as dy-no-mite entertainment, but an invaluable social document of the American suburb. The film reports on where youth culture was in this country in 1978 and in terms of economic and social conditions, still resides in most communities.
    'Over The Edge' is based on a 1973 article titled "Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree" from the San Francisco Examiner about Foster City, California, in which the affluent planned community had one of the highest juvenile crime rates in the country.

    The film touches on "white-flight" away from cities, while also (as the blockquote alludes to) dealing with issues that are still relevant, like an asshole Homeowners Association President who's more worried about property values than the underlying problems of the community.

    However, before I give the film too much credit, I should say that it straddles the line between being social commentary and '70s exploitation film. Your mileage may vary on how well it does that.

  •  Back to the failure of corporate education reform (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jeffwtux, ZenTrainer, Sarenth, mrkvica

    The movie was nice but we have a genuine national tragedy unfolding here and nobody seems to give a damn...

    The Obama Administration is in bed with Wall Street edushysters and Laura's article is spot on.

    This business of opening up public education to corporate locusts who staff pseudo teachers in flyby charters while test publishing companies make billions off of ancillary material and test kits where by tax dollars are swallowed up for more of the same government mandated, mind numbing, non-consensual standardized educational experience will be the death of this Democracy if it hasn't done us in already.

    Is it too late to wake the frog out of the boiling water container or is the frog already par-boiled?

    Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

    by semioticjim on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 07:55:00 PM PST

  •  I was a fan of the movie too, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and i was an adult and i had the soundtrack until recently. Gret diary, Laura, thanks.

    "Let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation....It's how we are as Americans...It's how this country was built"- Michelle Obama

    by blueoregon on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 08:01:05 PM PST

  •  One of my favorite movies (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  Laura, apart from that main aspect ... (4+ / 0-)

    I loved the movie also.  Maybe mostly because I was a radio person for a 32-year second career on the air, up until 2008.  I loved the ending and the notion of so many kids secretly taking to the air in their towns ... back when radio still 'existed.' Now of course anyone can 'broadcast' online or blog but there's no romance to it, is the best way I can put it.

    And of course your take on the educational themes is on the money.

  •  Loved the movie too (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was a long time out of high school when it came out so that part of the movie wasn't what I remembered most.   For me it was the main character feeling like such an outsider....and the fact that he could be so tough when he was anonymous but so shy when he was around others.

    One person was able to make a difference so I loved that powerful message.

    Still it's interesting, the teaching to the test that still is such a corrupting way of life today.

    Take life with a grain of salt.....a slice of lime, and a shot of tequila

    by Texnance on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 08:10:07 PM PST

  •  a good choice, particularly since it engages (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    educational administrator corruption, public sphere communication (albeit pirate radio), and institutions of power before the internet. This could be remade today but perhaps a better movie would be one that demystified the capitalist movies of privatized public education and critiqued the larger corruption of assessment and authentication in online education.

    “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” - Dalai Lama XIV (-9.50; -7.03)‽ Warning - some snark above‽

    by annieli on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 08:16:17 PM PST

  •  I loved this movie SO MUCH! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZenTrainer, Wednesday Bizzare

    Actually my high school did this in the 80s although the stakes were not has high back then. They had a punitive attendance/tardy policy that allowed them to pretty easily bully an unwanted kid off the rolls. I was a high scoring student, so my tardies to first period were ignored. Kids who didn't do as well on state standardized tests who ran late or had any sort of discipline issues found themselves asked to leave for a crappy "alternative high school."

    Even back then they had the ability, and these days they have all the motivation in the world and even more tools for discouraging/discarding kids.

    Wow, what a crush I had on Christian Slater in that movie. I really need to see it again. And Heathers.

  •  What are public school attrition rates to compare? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Why do I have to Google this myself? Turns out, the Washington D.C. public schools' graduation rate is pretty similar to SEED's. Whatever bad-magic SEED is doing to ignore, weed out, or whatever to failing students, the public school system is doing too.

    So I'm wondering: besides opposing charter schools, what was the point?

    •  shooting down hype (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If SEEDS achieves the same rough results as the public school system, they sure as hell don't admit it.  Their pitch is basically 'We are a massive improvement over DC public schools, 100% of our students graduate unlike those faily mcfailersons over there.  We have the secret sauce that improves education in our community."  In other words, bullshit.  Maybe they do do some things right, but the actual record does not support the 'tear them all down, replace them with charters, problems solved' rhetoric.

      (Note, the numbers you cited are only of percent of freshmen who graduate in 4 years.  If a student, for whatever reason, falls onto a 5 year track DC public schools will still be educating them in their 5th year, the charter they've been weeded out because they aren't part of their 100%.)

    •  Did you really just cite CNS news? (0+ / 0-)

      That aside, the point was that charter school graduation rates are artificially inflated by kicking kids out. And just this weekend, after I'd written this piece and while I was away from the computer and unable to revise it, this article came out.

      DC charter schools expel students at far higher rates than traditional public schools:

      D.C. charter schools expelled 676 students in the past three years, while the city’s traditional public schools expelled 24, according to a Washington Post review of school data. During the 2011-12 school year, when charters enrolled 41 percent of the city’s students, they removed 227 children for discipline violations and had an expulsion rate of 72 per 10,000 students; the District school system removed three and had an expulsion rate of less than 1 per 10,000 students.
      The point is that it's not worth a whole lot to say your graduation rates are good if you kicked out the kids who were unlikely to graduate early enough that they don't count toward your graduation rates.
  •  a great song feat some quotes from (0+ / 0-)
  •  As the diarist said, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    not all charter schools are for-profit, sectarian, divisive. My daughter is in a great Charter School in the NJ suburbs of NYC, her sister graduated from the school a few years ago. After initial shunning, the school district has embraced the Charter School. This is what the Charter School movement had in mind. We were early adopters. We're, regrettably, the rare success story. Those who came after us subverted the idea to their own (usually rightwing / religious) ends. Which is a shame - our school, though a little bit offbeat by the standards of the pre-existing schools, is outside their dictates when something weird comes along like zero-tolerance run amock, but has through the excellence of their program and their light touch on the mainline schools, been accepted in the community bottom to top.

  •  Best quote from the movie (0+ / 0-)

    This is one of my all time favorite movies!!!

  •  recalculate what success is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I see a lot of situations where success is measured after booting out the worst performers. I think in some of these instances they should be required to keep anyone they lose like this on there stats as a 0%. So if there is 1000 students to start the year and 20 get kicked out; don't average the 980 you have left. There is 1000, 20 of which are 0's.
    It would be a crude way in these cases to make administrators care about everybody that comes in. But sometimes you just want to take a hammer to systemic problems.

  •  1.5 decades later, Rod Paige's "miracle" still (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    No Child Left Behind was built on Paige's "Dallas Miracle." He achieved his miraculous rise in graduation rates and test scores by reclassifying as "special education" all students with low scores and expelling students who were going to drop out.

    "You can't quit: you're expelled" is a good way to keep your drop out rate down. Michelle Rhee is just another step.

    The truth of wanting to emulate the exclusiveness of private schools is apparent. It's also the one thing that's wrong. Emulating the content competency and abandoning the tests, the way private schools do, isn't. Preps look at what colleges are teaching and go backwards.

    People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

    by The Geogre on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 04:42:49 AM PST

  •  Pump Up The Volume (0+ / 0-)

    I remember watching this movie an extreme number of times (over 40) and loving the message behind the movie.

    I had the movie on video and pretty much wore it out. I recorded its words onto cassette tape and would listen to it throughout my day. I eventually purchased it on DVD and have not watched it in quite some time. I suppose in light of this article, it might be time to once again break out the film and revel in all its nuances.

    "Do you ever get the feeling that everything in America is completely fu*ked up?" (Mark in Pump Up the Volume)

    •  I saved up for the video. (0+ / 0-)

      Went to the video store to ask about ordering it, and because it hadn't been a big hit and this was before everyone bought everything on video, it cost like $90 because they were only making a limited run. Luckily, I was able to find it used while I was still deciding about the $90.

  •  Very Influential to me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    papa monzano

    This movie was also very influential to me.  I was in junior high when this came out, but just as poingant.  I wasn't from a desert suburb, but rather a Southern Illinois farm town.  I so wanted to be Christian Slater. The thing I got most out of the movie is that you should not be afraid to speak your mind.  Don't be afraid of being told to shut up.

    Damn, I have to watch this again.  As another poster said, this movie also fueled my longtime crust on Samatha Mathis :)

  •  While I'm not a fan of charters, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I do believe that one of the central failings of contemporary secondary education is that it is nearly impossible to fail a class.

    I've been teaching college English courses for about ten years, and have done a lot of dual-credit classes (college courses taught to high-performing high-school juniors and seniors). Additionally I spent two years with Teach for America (an organization about which I have strongly mixed feelings) teaching 8th grade. The consistent thread I've encountered is that students who do the work, no matter the quality, get a passing grade. And students who don't do the work get the opportunity for last-second make-up work (that is often much easier than the original) or extra credit, because teacher's are held accountable for student grades, and so there is a strong incentive not to fail students. And even if they do fail, they can "make up" an entire year of a class by attending a six-week summer school where they do worksheets. The net effect is that even my top-quality high school kids are frequently stunned by the demands of college course work (primarily the required independence and lack of third and fourth chances), and my success rate is about 50% (close to par for my institution).

    So, while the shrinking cohorts of charters may indeed indicate some fishy business (and certainly the value of charters has been disproven in many studies), it may also indicate their greater freedom to fail students who are unwilling to put out the effort. And frankly, I think removing the freedom to fail is one of the greatest disservices to our students.

    •  Well, should a school get to bounce a failing (0+ / 0-)

      student?  Doesn't that failing student deserve a chance for an education too?  Say you failed half of your kids - wouldn't they still be around to fail the next semester?

      Regardless of that, I suspect that one of the primary factors driving these kids out of the schools isn't grades, but discipline.  That is really where these charters have the advantage - if you don't follow their discipline rules, you can be very quickly removed.  And if you haven't shown sign of excellence in areas like sports or academics, they won't hesitate to kick you out.  

    •  Failing a class and getting expelled (0+ / 0-)

      are two different things.

  •  What is truth (0+ / 0-)

    As I become more inexorable an adult, the words of Johnny cash become even more relevent to insuring I don't forget what is real

    Said, it looks to me like they've all gone wild
    It was peaceful back when I was a child
    Well, man, could it be that the girls and boys
    Are trying to be heard above your noise
    Yeah, the ones that you're calling wild
    Are going to be the leaders in a little while
    This old world's waking to a new born day
    And I solemnly swear that it'll be their way
    We educate because we want the values of our civilization to be carried to the next generation.  We must also realize that life is not static, and the values will change.  This is good because in most cases we reach what many would consider a more civilized situation.

    For example, the year after this song, the supreme court approved many tools that were used to make my education very diverse, although I must admit that now schools are becoming much less diverse, as we have seen in recent tragedies.

    I think the curent failure is that we are not using schools to maximize the transfer of values.  This is by design as many parents do not want their kids leaning any values that were not in existence a genration ago. So we have charter schools, voucher for religious schools, and public schools protected by economic and race barriers.  The problem is that if one is not willing to accept other values as valid, then one cannot expect other to accept your values as valid.

    If we want the masses to accept education as the way to succeed, as opposed to high profit retail sales, then we must be brave enough to listen and comprehend

  •  I still... (0+ / 0-)

    ...listen to the soundtrack and watch the movie regularly, all these years later...

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