Behold the power of academia! We at Idiomanic firmly believe in the importance of a good education. As such, our contributors have selected four recommendations honouring teachers and the scholastic discipline. Secretly, they all want to be X-Men, you know.
Bill Nye the Science Guy
I love learning new stuff but not in video games. Why? Because developers always put the emphasis on the scholastic part, not on the gaming part, resulting in a boring mess. You need only look at the likes of Mario Is Missing or Captain Novolin to understand to what I’m referring. I do however enjoy educational shows, and Bill Nye the Science Guy serves as a great example of an educational program that kept me entertained even though I was long past its recommended age.
Discussing myriads of scientific topics from deep inside Nye Laboratories, the titular character is able to vulgarise even the hardest of concepts like the Bernoulli Principle or absolute zero, ensuring grade school children can understand them. The show also features kids conducting experiments you can try at home and parodies of famous songs, in which the original lyrics are substituted for the theme of the day. If your children have an interest in science, you can purchase DVDs of Bill Nye the Science Guy from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. Unfortunately, there are no season sets, so you’ll want to pick and choose the episodes before taking out your Credit Card of Science!
Finding Forrester (2000)
Despite good intentions, the value of education often proves subjective. It is, for example, subject to income level, natural inclination, and dedication, but also to how well your learning style meshes with the norm and how you relate to your instructors. This notion informs much of Finding Forrester, about a disadvantaged inner-city teen (Rob Brown) with a natural talent for words and the reclusive award-winning author (Sean Connery) who mentors him. Their relationship demonstrates perfectly why our best education comes from those who love us and whom we love.
As an avid reader, I adore Finding Forrester, which argues that reading voraciously can help a boy on a sports scholarship show up his snobbish, confrontational, and contemptuous prep school English professor. It also reminds us that the young have as much to teach the old as vice versa, a valuable lesson for a mom such as myself. In the end, though, the film is about the liberating power of lifelong education, the value of personal integrity, and the transformative power of friendship, which makes me happy.
Lean on Me (1989)
I’ve always liked John G. Avildsen’s Lean on Me, which recounts the exploits of real life high school principal Joe Louis Clark (Morgan Freeman), whose controversial disciplinary methods helped turn around Eastside High in Paterson during the nineteen-eighties. I find the film inspiring because it presents kids who are genuinely forgotten by the system. Sure, we’re told Molly Ringwald’s character in Pretty in Pink (1986) is from the lower class, but what proof do we have of this? Her life seems pretty glamorous to me, especially when compared to that of the students in New Jersey’s inner city.
Joe doesn’t start off a high school principal. He gets put into this position, wondering at first whether he can do anything for these teenagers, who seem to have lost all hope. However, he manages to find a couple of teachers who, like him, believe the students of Eastside High can do better, and they work hand and hand to push the kids toward success. The cooperation between this strong leader and those in the frontline lies at the heart of Lean on Me. You see, reform can’t happen if the establishment isn’t interested in it.
As a more nuanced and adult counterweight to the “bratty magician at school” subgenre that J.K. Rowling made so popular with her seven book, eight movie, and fifteen billion dollar Harry Potter series, I submit The Magicians by Time Magazine fiction critique Lev Grossman. Published in 2009, the untypically mature novel follows the unearthly academic career of high school graduate Quentin Coldwater and his Brooklyn friends, who all get invited into a magical underworld.
Drawing heavily from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, The Magicians proves somewhat morose in tone, an aspect Grossman acknowledges and corrects in his excellent 2011 sequel The Magician King). Nevertheless, the book remains an excellent coming-of-age tale that discusses the very notion of studying and how school can change a person’s outlook for good or for ill. If you haven’t read this one yet, pick it up, and keep track of the author. I think there’s more and better to come from him. Plus he’s very, very bald, a look that, as you can surely tell from my cartoon avatar, I fully endorse.