Television dramas about schools and schooling are more than entertainment. Discuss, using examples.
The question I am setting out to answer the question why ‘television dramas about schools and
schooling are more than entertainment. Discuss, using examples’ and so this
essay will set out to analyse the number of programmes and
movies that are shown regularly on TV that depict education, students,
teachers, overall learning, achieving and assessment. So, we can use
this media perspective on education and the school environment to compare
it to the current environment in real schools allowing us to check if the shows
we view is purely for entertainment or if show is a
realistic interpretation of school life.
This is because
education as a theme and as a department of government is contested as there
are a number of different methods and roles involved when providing the youth
of the nation with an education and different media sources will
focus on the parts of education that they believe will make the most
entertaining programmes. This is instead of providing only real-world examples
or basing their programmes on only fact which people may not find as
captivating to watch as the programmes they do make which involve real story
lines exaggerated for effect.
Typologies of education found in the media
Education its self has a number of roles in any
given society. Introduction to educational
studies (2016) states that ‘Meighan and Harber’ (2007:225) outlined 11 significant ‘component theories”.
These components are there to outline what they believed to be the
purpose of education and I can use this these theories in
my comparison to media representations. The component that
I feel are the least common in the media are ‘discipline and
order’ this is because TV programmes such as ‘Waterloo
Road’ chose to portray a classroom as a place of open chaos, a savage
land that needs a strong teacher or head to attempt to tame it for learning to
take place. This is noticeable in the first season of ‘Waterloo Road’ when
they welcome new deputy head played by ‘Jamie Glover’ to help bring order and
prevent the school from being closed by the local council.
To elaborate, GOV.UK (2015) The purpose of
education speech by the Minister of Education for the United Kingdom states in
his speech ‘Education is the engine of our economy, it is the foundation
of our culture, and it’s an essential preparation for adult life’. This means
that education is there to prepare us for the transition to adult
life and to ensure that we continue to build upon the foundation
of British culture and work to improve the economy. if we
are to belief the behaviour of the media representations then
school children in shows like ‘little Britain’ will never be able to
cope with the rules and responsibilities involved in the work place which
makes you wonder if they are to be believed what state will the country
be in 20 years’ time when the current generation of school children are
out into the real world.
Another purpose of education is a social one where
children make lifelong friends and learn the social norms they will use for the
rest of their life. Social Skills and School | Centre for
Development and Learning (2018) states that ‘School is not only a place where
children learn reading, writing and math. It is also a place where they learn
to get along with other people and develop social skills’.
Norms which are often evolve and schools seem to
struggle to keep up the ever-changing times especially when it comes
to themes such as gender identity, racism or sexuality which aren’t explored in
schools but are often depicted on the TV shows like ‘Waterloo Road’ and the
story arc about a character called Josh coming to terms with his homosexuality.
‘Grange hill’ shows its age with the way the staff and other students react to
racist comments made about the character Benny which in a modern school would
be rightfully be a huge issue that demands attention. The reasons they are
shown on TV is because its believed that it will shock the audience not with it
occurring because we live in more tolerant and accepting society but with the
reactions on this issue from the students and staff are usually non-supportive
for the sake of the story line and to add drama but it does raise a key point
about how a school would react in this situation.
How teachers and students are
represented in the media
The Independent. (2018) TV
shows like Grange Hill and Waterloo Road put would-be teachers off profession,
says chief school’s inspector online states that ‘TV programmes like ‘Grange
Hill’ and ‘Waterloo Road’ have helped create a
teacher recruitment crisis by putting would-be recruits off from joining the
profession’. This shows that the medias representation of teachers on TV
are harming the schools by putting off would be teachers that would work in
education teaching children in already understaffed schools. For example, the
TV programmes like
‘Grange Hill’ and previously mentioned ‘Waterloo
Road’ portraying most students as possibly violent, unwilling or
unable to learn and therefore difficult to teach for the struggling staff. This
may prevent people entering the teaching profession as they will compare real
life children to those in TV and not wish to spent their life in that
environment and pursue a different profession. Even the name of the TV show
‘Waterloo Road’ is named after the battle of Waterloo which implies a day in
day out struggle between the teachers and the students for power in the
classroom and this is purposely done to leads viewers into a particular way of
In comparison teachers in these
TV programmes are
portrayed with a dominant discourse across media platforms. They are portrayed
in 2 particular ways. Firstly, the most common portrayal is as lazy, uncaring
and uninterested in their job or the children that they are tasked with looking
after and education. And in comparison, they are on occasion shown as
caring and loving with great investment in the children but must battle against
the status quo and the other teachers in order to fulfill their role. This is
shown in the movie ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ where the good teacher played by Julia
Roberts is shown as a sort of rebel who comes in and shakes up the norm. She
does this by showing a caring and understanding for her students as people and
tries to evolve her teaching methods beyond the traditional teacher focused
method of behaviourism where
children will learn using lectures and the repeated practice of taught methods
for use in tests and other methods of assessment. She instead preferred to use
a child centered approach
of connectivism where the children area allowed to be more creative in there
learning and direct their own paths. This is also shown in the 1939 movie
‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips’ which shows that in the 60 years between the two movies
that the standard media perception of a good teacher hasn’t changed even though
the subject of education has evolved many times.
The way that teaching is portrayed
is very ridged and authoritarian when in reality you can be a caring teacher
and follow the rules and the current school curriculum and there’s never a need
to fight the system as much or at all because its obviously enhanced for
dramatic effect. Furthermore, this shows how much these
movies will and ignore realistic teaching methods and the good
teachers for entertainment purposes and a funnier comedy or more story for their
dramatic piece. To summarise it
depends on the school that the child attends which section of the learning
theory they will use to educate as it depends on factors like
the local council, if it’s a private school or state school and if it’s a faith
school but I find that teachers no matter the school or as inept or as
unprofessional as those found on your Television.
Also, a typology of education
involving teachers is that some if not most are portrayed as unprofessional and
its clear to see teaching was not their first-choice career wise. I
find a good example of a teacher with unprofessional behaviour to
be from the BBC show ‘Bad Education’. In this show secondary school history teacher
played by comedian Jack Whitehall plays a character who does care for his
students however his antics are there for comedic effect and used specifically
for the entertainment of the viewer, For another point he is lazy has behaviour worse
than that of his students which would not be tolerated in a real work
environment and flat out refuses to take his role as an educator seriously.
Equality, important is the way that
the Heads of schools are represented in the media with shows preferring to
choose between a spineless or well-meaning head that is fighting a
futile battle for power against the students at the school. Such as ‘Jack Rimmer’ played
by Jason Merrells fighting
to keep his school opening. Or they are shown as neoconservative and
traditional ruling over the students as the undisputed ruler of the microcosm
of the school awaiting a challenge from a new teacher. An example of this would
be Mrs. Appleyard in the movie ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’
who Den of Geek (2018)
13 most fearsome movie teachers online in their review of media
representations of teachers described the character as ‘hardcore headmistresses
who leaves students shivering in her wake’. We know from the movie that
her behavior leads a student taking their own life which
should never occur in a real-life school and this kind of behaviour
would only exist in the media because of the ever increasing amount of actions
set to support students who may suffer from depression.
Students in the media are portrayed
in a number of ways. It will usually depend on the school where the programme/movie is set. Such
as inner-city state school’s children are usually portrayed
as uninterested, uncaring, hostile and rowdy requiring a teacher who is usually
the traditional story hero in these stories to come in and bring order and
restore or instill a love of learning to the children.
Alternatively, the students will reside in a traditional environment
where Victorian era teaching is still being used where the children will
regurgitate information with no creativity or independent though where passing
exams in the only thing that matters. This is where they will wait for a new
teacher to join and shake up the system teaching free and independent though to
unlock their hidden potential with a constructivism theoretical approach to
teaching students and allowing them to learn from each
other and discover new things through self-guided learning
where they are free to express themselves.
However, across all these
different contexts there are dominant discourses that are
associated and applied to students across different TV programmes in different countries.
For instance, there is the bully and the victim and in some cases
the roles are not portrayed by the students as a teacher or member of staff
could also be a bully or a victim. this discourse is often shown in media and
all have similarities which are the bully is usually larger than their victim
and will often be shown to enjoy taking part in the verbal or physical abuse
of the victim who tends to be smaller, weaker and often with more
academic ability then the bully. On a rare occasion the student bully will
be helped out by a teacher or encouraged by the member of staff; an example of
this would be professor Snape and Malfoy and while the circumstances may be
wildly unrealistic students in schools this does occur. An example of this
occurring is in the Daily Mail (2015) Teacher who encouraged pupils to
bully a 13-year-old girl by writing ‘ugly’, ‘annoying’ and ‘phony’ on a board
until she cried wants to go back into the classroom online discusses a
situation where a teacher in America lost her job after encouraging students to
single out a girl in her class.
Referring to the question I find
that while exaggerated for the entertainment value I found that the representation of students
and teachers to be more then entertainment as it singles out people in the
crowd to focus in the story of an individual. This in my opinion allows a more
direct look at the issues that school children face and what can be done
differently by staff at the schools and those that set policy for the schools
to improve conditions for both staff and students which intern should help
remove some of the aforementioned stereotypes in schools that the media will
media portrayal of education says about society
BERA (2017) states ‘Social theory
here refers to the use of theoretical frameworks to explain
and analyse social action, social meanings and large-scale social
structures’. This is clearly prevalent in the medias representation of school
society as every student will belong to a specific clique or group and each of
these groups will place differently on the social pyramid based on their
apparent ‘coolness’ or popularity. So, because in TV shows and movies the
groups are layered out like a pyramid with your popular ‘jocks’ at the top who
are the sporty type and your smaller ‘nerds’ on the bottom with the lowest
social status. In addition, the schools will be a microcosm of
society as a whole. It shows that in reality the groups and social cliques
aren’t as obvious are there and that the nation isn’t equal in terms of chance
and ability. However, in my experience I didn’t find these
groups in school as clear cut and obvious as they are exaggeration in school
and lack the fluidity of real school children’s groups.
important is the fact that if some shows like ‘Waterloo Road’ are to be taken
literally the state of the nation youth provides a grim prediction of the
future. What it conveys is the next generation of workers, police and
politicians as violent, ignorant and lazy as it shows that society is too soft
on allowing children to growing up too soon and shown by the increase
in teenage pregnancy, gang activities and drug use in some schools around the
So, I found TV shows in this
context to be more then entertainment but an important look into the issues in
this country that needed to brought to light and dealt with instead of pushed
under the carpet in the name of better results and higher league table places.
It shows us the parts of school life that we may not have noticed or
experienced and allows parents and other watchers to understand the new
pressures that school children face and is key to understand the best way to
help children fulfill their full potential.
How the media portrayal of
education will affect public perspective
The media such as TV shows, movies
and news segments will often prefer to investigate and portray what they find
in schools to be the most entertainment or get the most people watching.
Unfortunately, this tends to be the more negative aspects and behaviours found
in school that grabs the attention of the general public that tune in week in
week out to watch the TV programmes that are aired by the networks.
Ultimately, this will and does
affect the opinion of the education department that the general public who will
be more likely to hear about drugs found in the possession students then an
exceptional group of students accomplishing something great. Which I suppose
says more about society and the way we are entertained then it changes our
It’s also possible that there
are just more negative events occurring in schools then are positive moments to
highlight and so they should be presented not to shame and stir up public
outcry but to inspire people to come up with creative solutions to
these ever-present problems. British Politics and Policy at LSE.
2018. Why do we pay more attention to negative news than to positive news?
| British Politics and Policy at LSE. ONLINE states that ‘ humans
may neurologically or physiologically predisposed towards focusing on negative
information because the potential costs of negative information far outweigh
the potential benefits of positive information’ this may be why the media will
choose to focus more on the negative aspects of schooling then the existing
Additionally, the media’s relentless
negative coverage on schools and the people who work in/for and attend them
will also reinforce the negative view that
some people already held about the school system in this
country. The negative media coverage could also have an adverse effect on a
child’s perspective when it comes to school or for the next stage in their
school journey which would add unneeded stress and affect their school
attendance which could affect their development. The catch
on effect of this may cause more behaviour issues that the
media could pick up upon and proceed to use in their media adaptations
of school’s life and how they represent children’s behaviour.
In terms of their effect on the
public I believe that TV programmes offer more than just
entertainment. These TV dramas will affect anyone who watches it and the affect
will vary depending on their connection to education as some people view for
the sole purpose of entertainment and others will connect it to their own
experience in education. Amazingly it has the additional purpose of a platform
to conduct critical analysis as Mitchell & Weber (Reinventing
Ourselves as Teachers, 1999, p171) states: Studying texts can make us
more critically aware of popular stereotypes of teachers’ work and roles, and
expose underlying socio-political agendas and tacit messages which these images
support, critique or reproduce. This implies that using the
media we can evaluate the work that teachers complete and the role they fulfill
in schools to gain a better understanding of what they come into contact with
during their job. This illustrates that the use of the media as a tool for
critical analysis to allow the department of education or parents to take a
more active role to understand and have an effect on the way that local schools
are run and the best way to reach and educate the children.
To summarise throughout
the points I have discussed in this essay I have noted that TV dramas,
news shows and movies about schools, schooling, staff and students offer more
to those who view them than just entertainment. I find this to
be for a number of reasons I find them useful as an insight into
what the men and women who produce media perceives as troubling issues inside
of schools such as drugs, violence or teenage pregnancies and the new pressures
that students find them self under.
Moreover, how it affects the
public perception of the nation’s youth with their behaviour in
schools and the actions of the teachers. Essentially, the way they educate the
young lives that they are responsible for and how they work to help shape them
into the people they wish to be. So because of the previously stated reasons I
find the media devices to be more than entertainment they are an excellent
analytical tool that can be used to take a deeper look at the way schooling is
thought of by the general public and while parts may be exaggerated they will
be based on fact, real issues that exist in our schools and can help us use
creative reasoning to find solutions to these issues to improve the experience
of schooling for everyone involved in the processes.
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The purpose of
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2018. TV shows like Grange Hill and Waterloo Road put would-be teachers
off profession, says chief schools inspector | The Independent. ONLINE
Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/tv-shows-like-grange-hill-and-waterloo-road-put-would-be-teachers-off-profession-says-chief-schools-10329481.html. Accessed 16 January 2018.
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Politics and Policy at LSE. 2018. Why do we pay more attention to negative
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Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/why-is-there-no-good-news/.
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