Due: Nov. 29, 2012
Dangerous Minds and Savage Inequalities
Dangerous Minds (1995) is the account of a white teacher LouAnne Johnson who takes a job
teaching a class of low-income black and Hispanic students in an inner city high school, and
encounters a variety of social issues such as poverty, racism, drugs, gang violence and segregated
schools and neighborhoods as well as trying to acclimate herself to whole different culture. Most of
the teachers and the school authorities care nothing about these students and their problems, and
are simply passing them along without teaching them anything. Miss Johnson does come to care
about them ...view middle of the document...
These ghetto neighborhoods also lack banks, supermarkets, parks and other
public services, and have high levels of crime, gang activity, unemployment and drug dealing.
Kozol asks rhetorically whether Americans even believe in equality at all, and judging from the
condition of these public schools the answer would seem to be negative. Everyone even slightly
familiar with these urban public schools knows very well that they are “closely tied to class and
race” (Kozol 60). Most of them lack adequate textbooks and equipment, and even functioning
playgrounds and bathroom facilities. Almost none of their students will go on to higher education
and dropout rates are often as high as 80-90%. Those who graduate from these places will be
lucky to read at an elementary schools level, and they realize by 5th or 6th grade that they are being
cheated and do not have nearly the same educational opportunities as whites in suburban schools.
States paid about 50% of the budgets in these inner city schools and the federal government about
6%, but these funds are never sufficient to even come close to evening out the disparities with white
suburban schools. Since funding is based on property taxes and the value of property is much
lower in these segregated "ghetto" communities, this is “the decisive force in shaping
inequality” (Kozol 55). He points out that of course “there are wonderful teachers…almost
everywhere in urban schools, and sometimes a number of such teachers in a single school”, but this
is not the norm by any stretch of the imagination (Kozol, p. 51). As shown in the film, inner city
school teachers are older and badly paid compared to those in the suburbs, and the cities rely on
poorly paid substitutes and temporary and part-time teachers as well. They have no funds for
remedial classes, sports facilities, libraries or textbooks.
This movie is an accurate depiction of socialization and economic problems of minority youth
in inner-city schools, where they are confronted with a system that they know is hostile or indifferent
to their needs. As they tell Miss Johnson, she is the only “light” they have and they plead with her
not to abandon them. She can help a few of these students, of course, but changing the larger
structural and institutional problems is beyond her control. Most of the teachers have given up on
these students, and simply make them read books like My Darling, My Hamburger while several
have simply quit already. This school also does not even have enough money to buy pencils,
books and paper for the copying machines, although it does have its own private security force. To
say that the students are alienated and mistrustful of the entire system would be an understatement,
since they are all intelligent enough to know that they are only being prepared to stay in the innercity ghettos. Even the creepy and soft-spoken black principal, Mr. Grandey, seems more like a
bureaucrat who fears lawsuits and the...