Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 72

68 Populär Culture Review groups: those who are teaching English by choice and those who are not. I begin the discussion with the second group, people who would rather be doing something other than teaching English. My discussion o f this group focuses on three films: Renaissance Man, Summer School, and Shackles. The teachers in these films have a number o f things in common. All are coerced into teaching English. Bill Rago, the Protagonist o f Renaissance Man, is an out-of-work advertising executive who is teaching English to klutzy recruits on an army base because the M ichigan unemployment office will take away his unemployment benefits if he doesn’t. Freddy Shoop, the protagonist o f Summer School, is a high school gym teacher who w on’t get tenure unless he teaches a summer course in remedial English to students who have failed the school’s annual English proficiency exam. Ben Cross, the protagonist o f Shackles, is a high school math teacher who destroyed his teaching career three years previously to the film’s opening when he beat a Student bully into a coma. He is offered a job teaching in an experimental program that is intended to reduce recidivism among offenders in the juvenile unit o f the fictional Shackleton Prison. He w on’t get the job unless he also teaches English, which he reluctantly agrees to do in the hope that he can re-establish him self as a teacher. As if these circumstances were not enough to doom the teachers to failure, they all are teaching at-risk students in conditions not conducive to leaming. Rago’s students must attend d a ss after a day o f rigorous basic training, and he gets no support from drill sergeants who think his d ass is time wasted on trivial matters. Shoop’s students, whose dismal performance on the proficiency exam has demonstrated their lack o f interest, are being forced to attend summer school when they would rather be doing other things. Cross’s students are inmates awaiting trial on criminal charges, and they must be escorted back and forth to d a ss by prison guards. He even has to keep his pen locked up because it can be used as a weapon. And all these teachers are the same sort o f losers as their students appear to be. Rago is, like his recruits, a screw-up. He wrecked his career through negligence, he ruined his marriage, and he is on the verge o f ruining his relationship with his daughter. Shoop has never grown up. He is as unmotivated and irresponsible as his students— and barely distinguishable from them. On the first day o f d ass he shows up dressed for the beach: flowered shirt; shorts; red plastic sunglasses; and sandals. Cross, like his students in Shackleton Prison, still has a dangerous angermanagement problem that, also like his students, makes it difficult for him to take responsibility for his actions.