From Martyrs to Murderers

Images of Teachers and Teaching in Hollywood Films

  • Robert L. Dahlgren

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Robert L. Dahlgren
    Pages 1-12
  3. Robert L. Dahlgren
    Pages 13-30
  4. Robert L. Dahlgren
    Pages 31-46
  5. Robert L. Dahlgren
    Pages 47-63
  6. Robert L. Dahlgren
    Pages 65-76
  7. Robert L. Dahlgren
    Pages 91-107
  8. Robert L. Dahlgren
    Pages 109-127
  9. Robert L. Dahlgren
    Pages 129-144
  10. Robert L. Dahlgren
    Pages 145-157
  11. Back Matter
    Pages 159-160

About this book


In From Martyrs to Murderers, the author explores the connections between the dark, unflattering representations of public schools, teachers and teaching in popular Hollywood films and the conservative attacks on public education that have culminated in a generation of neo-liberal standards reform measures. The author’s analysis is based on a survey of 60 movies that feature significant interactions between public school teachers and their students. This study employed a textual analysis method involving viewing the films alongside original script material, which reveals that the narratives involving public schools during the late 20th century and early 21st century are distinct from those involving other types of schools or eras. Rather than the romantic figures of earlier portraits, such as Eve Arden’s beloved Our Miss Brooks in the 1940s and 1950s radio and television serial, these teachers are consistently portrayed as negative archetypes, thus providing a rationale for the school reform agenda of the 1980s. The sheer repetition of these damaging images in Hollywood products of the period made the American public more susceptible to the deceptive arguments outlined in A Nation at Risk, the seminal 1983 report that provided the blueprint for the standards reform movement that has dominated education policy for the past generation. This work thus develops upon the critical perspectives of educational historians and social studies educators who have probed this turning point in the history of American schooling. It also offers an alternative means of viewing the reality of life in the nation’s public institutions.


Public education Education policy Hollywood film Film theory Neo-liberalism

Authors and affiliations

  • Robert L. Dahlgren
    • 1
  1. 1.State University of New York at FredoniaUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information SensePublishers-Rotterdam, The Netherlands 2017
  • Publisher Name SensePublishers, Rotterdam
  • eBook Packages Education
  • Online ISBN 978-94-6300-965-2
  • Series Print ISSN 2213-722X
  • Series Online ISSN 2213-7238
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