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War veteran Rick Dadier is one of three new teachers hired at North Manual High School, an inner city boys school. This is his first teaching assignment, which he needs to support himself and his insecure pregnant wife, Anne. Despite Principle Warnecke's assertions to the contrary, Dadier quickly learns that the rumors of student discipline problems at the school are indeed true. The established teachers at the school try to counsel the newcomers, all inexperienced in such situations, as how best to handle the rowdy students. Regardless, Dadier tries to exert discipline in his class, which provokes a violent response. Dadier believes the student leaders against him are Artie West, but more specifically Gregory Miller, who he thinks uses the fact of being black as a means of racial provocation. Dadier has to decide either to leave and teach at a "real" school, or stay and figure out how to get through to his students. If he decides to stay, he has to figure out who the real disruptive ... Written by
A history professor once told me, "If you want to change history, become a historian." This statement might also apply to movie critics. I came of age (turned 13) when I saw this movie when it was first released in 1955. My buds and I liked the movie, not because it was a shocker, which it was not, but because it dealt fairly realistically with teenagers, much more so than say the old Andy Hardy series. To my knowledge no one was really shocked by this movie. There was no big hoopla by "concerned" citizens as there would be when Elia Kazan's "Baby Doll" played on the same screen a few years later. And "Rock Around The Clock" was not considered rock 'n' roll by most teens, only a pop hit along the lines of "Sh-boom." The first record actually considered rock 'n' roll by most teens was Chuck Berry's "Maybelline." When my buds and I first heard it on the radio, we stopped the car and listened intently to a new kind of teen music. That did not happen with anything Bill Haley and the Comets put on wax. Those who say "The Blackboard Jungle" was a shocker simply did not live through that period of history. Some of these same critics believe that the average family of the 50's was like the one portrayed on "Leave It To Beaver." I knew of no family in my neighborhood that lived like the Cleavers. We found "Rebel Without a Cause" and a somewhat neglected film "The Wild One" to be the ones that related to our rebellious side. "The Wild One," especially Marlon Brando's performance, was the standout film for us teens in those days. Another later Robert Mitchum flick, "Thunder Road," was also a movie that spoke to the teens of the period. Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Robert Mitchum were movie role models for many of us growing up in the turbulent 50's, not Glenn Ford or even Vic Morrow and Sidney Poitier.
That's not to say that this movie is not worth seeing, for it is a good movie dealing in a somewhat no nonsense way with teaching rebellious and sometimes dangerous teens, who see nothing relevant in book learning and who don't want to be exposed to the higher levels of intellectual endeavors. How do you teach the unteachable? Still a challenge today in the American classroom.
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