In writing a review of a narrative in pop culture that includes a significant illustration of diversity in a school community, I chose Dangerous Minds by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Bruckheimer, 1995). The film Dangerous Minds is based on the autobiography My Posse Don’t Do Homework by former U.S. Marine LouAnne Johnson, who took a teaching position at Carlmont High School in Belmont, California, where most of the students were Hispanic and African-American. This film exhibits cultural diversity in school community in several ways from lower-class and under-privileged backgrounds to being involved in gang and drug warfare activities to simply refusing to engage in any type of learning.
Determined to reach the students, LouAnne devises classroom exercises that teach similar principles to the prearranged work, but using themes and language that fascinate the streetwise students. She also tries to motivate them by giving them all an A grade from the beginning of the year, and arguing that the only thing required of them is that they maintain it.
Through poetry and other reading methods, she attempts to teach symbolism and metaphor. Once that was achieved, she progresses on to other poems and rewarded the students with a trip to a theme park, candy bar incentives, and a dinner at a nice restaurant. She also tried to teach the students how to use a verb correctly in a sentence. Her initial sentence on the board was, “We ____ meat for dinner.”
The students were not interested in learning through the curriculum based instruction that was pushed onto LouAnne through the principal and assistant principal of the school. Since the students would not respond to that way of learning, she quickly revised and reiterated her way of teaching by asking them, “What is the verb in the following sentence, “We want to die.” Since this was a relative way of thinking about things for the students, they responded quickly (Bruckheimer, 1995). The most interesting thing about the way she taught through diversity was that she related the information to their real-life circumstances. Taking the transdisciplinary approach, she was able to teach across the curriculum by integrating poetry and the history of where it originated (Bruckheimer, 1995).
LouAnne also reaches out to individual students that draw attention through their personal problems. Renoly is a Hispanic boy who is regularly involved in gang and street crime. LouAnne tries to encourage him to focus by paying a special visit to his family to congratulate him on his work, and going to dinner with him as a way of instilling confidence and self-respect. Callie is an African-American girl who is unusually bright girl in English, but is removed from the school halfway through the semester when she becomes pregnant. LouAnne visits her outside of school hours to try to persuade her to continue with further education. Finally, Emilio is the most troubled of them all. He believes strongly in the sense of personal respect and doesn’t want to ask her for help. She finds that his life is in danger and reaches out to help him. She directs him to talk to the principal and because of a bad attitude from the principal, Emilio is killed (Bruckheimer, 1995).
Toward the end of the movie, LouAnne gets overwhelmed with trying to help all the students and wants to quit. The main reason I think that LouAnne was successful in meeting the needs of the diverse school community is because at the end of the movie the students take a stand for her and insist that stays and finishes helping them so they can graduate. They refer to her as their “light” in learning which was derived from a poem that she had taught them. That in itself shows how she was able to get through to a group of culturally diverse students in the school community (Bruckheimer, 1995).
Bruckheimer, D. S. (Director). (1995). Dangerous Minds [Motion Picture].