Morgan Freeman and Robin Williams’ Impact on America’s Education System

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Recently, Getting Education Right, was released, a new book co-authored by Mike McShane and myself that presents a principled conservative vision to enhance early childhood, K–12, and higher ed. An intriguing topic we delve into towards the book’s conclusion is how Morgan Freeman and Robin Williams influenced America’s educational system.

“How they what now?!”

Yes, I can sense your astonishment. Take a moment to process.

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To present our viewpoint, Mike and I often highlight the importance of teachers embodying a sense of moral seriousness, regardless of their teaching methods or style. This seriousness involves viewing the teaching profession as a formative vocation rather than a mere performance. Sadly, the education sector has glorified performance over substance. Leaders in schools and systems gain recognition by endorsing the latest trends. Social media showcases educators advocating personal agendas in the classroom. Numerous educational influencers encourage teachers to push specific social and political ideologies. Although Freeman and Williams aren’t entirely accountable, their portrayal of iconic teachers in movies decades ago still influences our societal perceptions.

In the movie Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams’ character challenges students to rebel against traditional norms to make their lives extraordinary, culminating in a memorable scene of students standing on desks to honor their departing teacher. Similarly, Morgan Freeman’s role in Lean on Me as a tough principal aiming to restore order in a chaotic high school perpetuates the notion of stringent discipline. These images of the heroic rebel and authoritarian disciplinarian have shaped how we perceive education, often straying from its formative purpose.

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In our observations, we recognize that portraying “formative and serious” characters may not be a box office hit, but figures like Keating and Clark have become icons, especially within the education sphere. While extreme cases exist, such as kindergartens advocating political agendas to young children, instances like a teacher criticizing Shakespeare for being “misogynistic” are concerning. We must prioritize academic content and critical thinking over personal ideological narratives in the classroom.

A recent teacher survey conducted by RAND reveals that educators are self-censoring on socio-political topics due to new laws and parental concerns. Limiting controversial discussions in classrooms may actually benefit student learning outcomes in core subjects like math, science, literature, geography, history, and the arts.

Educational environments should be dedicated to fostering learning and exploration, not serving as platforms for adult ideologies.

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Frederick Hess is an executive editor of Education Next and the author of the blog “Old School with Rick Hess.”

The post How Morgan Freeman and Robin Williams Derailed America’s Schools appeared first on Education Next.

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