Black Students in Film: Representations of Classroom Identities

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Introduction

In the late 1880’s, ten men also known as the Committee of Ten established a standardized educational material for the institution of secondary schools l. Soon after in 1906, The Carnegie Unit was established, which created the five 50 minute class periods that students in American secondary schools attend per subject. Through this, the amount of credit allotted for the time spent in the classroom was established. Today, these implemented ideas still stand as a major characteristic in American High schools. High school remains one of the prime agents of socialization for adolescents as they spend the equivalent of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in this environment with peers.

Realizing that High School is a major part American lives and identity, Hollywood has capitalized off of it creating hundreds of movies and television shows depicting the lives of teenagers. High school plays a critical role in both American schooling and American Film so much that it has become its own sub-genre in film. In many ways High School acts as a social sorter in educational and economic attainment, in which some students are tracked to college and affluence while others are assigned to dropping out, poverty and prison. David Labaree

demonstrates this as he looks at education as a consumer good of social mobility:

“Consumers demand a stratified structure of opportunities within each institution, which offers each child the chance to become clearly distinguished from his or her fellow students. This means they want the school to have reading groups (high, medium, and low), pull-out programs for both high achievers (gifted and talented programs) and low achievers (special education), high school tracks offering parallel courses ...

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...here are shared values and expectations between school personnel and the parents they serve. The greater the degree of social closure, the more likely it is that service providers will feel obligated and able to provide high-quality service”. Noguera makes a point when he acknowledges how the attitudes of those in positions of power behave in a manner of disdain when they have to serve those in urban, poor, non-white communities.

Findings - films in which the dominant racial identity is whiteness, when there is a character that is outside of that realm in the film, their race become the most salient characteristic about them to the audience . while there are a mix of multi-ethnic, and predominately black casts in the films viewed it is typically race that remains a salient characteristic but in a manner that they regard their race as a part of their identity.

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