Akeelah and the Bee

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Akeelah Anderson, an eleven year old African American student from the Crenshaw neighborhood of South Los Angeles, struggles to overcome the limitations of her environment in order to succeed in a national spelling bee competition. As our group discussed the film Akeelah and the Bee we first wanted to look at the themes the film presents. We originally thought of the more oblivious ones such as how race and socioeconomic class play apart in the film. We also started to notice that the film presented an idealized view of how one individual can transform a community. We came to am agreement that the film gives clear representations of both the traditional and progressive forms of education, but neglects to do anything to address the socioeconomic issues that critical theorists focus on.

The film opens with the returning of spelling tests in an under-privileged, and traditional school. The first sign of a traditional based school is the way the classrooms are designed and set up, with all of the desks facing the front toward the teacher's desk and chalk board. The movie begins with the teacher handing out spelling test scores, and everyone except Akeelah’s spelling test is under the satisfactory mark. The teacher gave the students words to memorize and recite back on the test later that week, and focuses on basic rote memorization where all of the students are tested on the same level, which is common in a traditional school.

The movie shows how the traditional classroom setting is flawed, and seems to be at a standstill not allowing for growth or a true learning experience. As states in School and Society: “This concern is not hypothetical. Many of the specific tests being used to generate speeches and articles about the ...

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...to make a predominantly white, coffee-drinking consumer group feel less bad about school children in the ghetto.

The film is a good example of how powerful progressive education can be with glimpses of traditional classroom, but fails to understand the

Although this type of environment threatens her ability to be a very smart and gifted student, a few people in her life realize her potential. Akeelah gets this opportunity because the district gets involved with Crenshaw, Akeelah’s school, because their test scores are so low, and will not receive the full funding it needs in order to provide simple supplies to their students such as book and bathroom stalls: “The district is breathing down my back, the test scores are low again.” (Akeelah and the Bee), and the principle thinks that if a student does well at the national bee then it will get more attention.
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