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Television Dramas About Schools and Schooling Are More than Entertainment

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The question I am setting out to answer the question of why ‘television dramas about schools and schooling are more than entertainment. Discuss, using examples’ and so this essay will set out to analyze 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 the 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 the only fact which people may not find as captivating to watch as the programmes they do make which involve real storylines 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 theory in my comparison to media representations. The component that I feel is 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 believe 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 workplace 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 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 storyline 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 from entering the teaching profession as they will compare real-life children to those in TV and not wish to spend their lives 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 the 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 thinking.

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 behaviorism 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 are 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 rigid 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 it is 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 it is clear to see teaching was not their first-choice career-wise. I find a good example of a teacher with unprofessional behavior 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 behavior 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 thought 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 than 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 focus on.

What the media portrayal of education says about society

BERA (2017) states ‘Social theory here refers to the use of theoretical frameworks to explain and analyze social action, social meanings, and large-scale social structures’. This is clearly prevalent in the media 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 an exaggeration in school and lack the fluidity of real school children’s groups.

Equally important is the fact that if some shows like ‘Waterloo Road’ are to be taken literally the state of the national 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 grow up too soon and shown by the increase in teenage pregnancy, gang activities and drug use in some schools around the country.

So, I found TV shows in this context to be more than entertainment but an important look into the issues in this country that needed to bring 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 entertaining or get the most people watching. Unfortunately, this tends to be the more negative aspects and behaviors found in school that grabs the attention of the general public that tunes in the 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 than 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 opinions.

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 predispose 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 than the existing positives.

Additionally, the media’s relentlessly 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 the effect of this may cause more behavior 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 behavior.

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 effect 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 perceive 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 behavior 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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Television dramas about schools and schooling are more than entertainment. (2018, May 23). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from
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