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Wednesday, June 27, 2012


The consensus on this movie is absolutely positive in all different ways. So do read them, as I am not going to write about that aspect of the film except to say that it is wonderful in every way and is deeply moving.

What I do want to say is that Monsieur Lazar is caught securely in the Foucauldian Grid of power/knowledge expressed through the educational system in Montreal which is no different from what we know: academic credentials; certification; political correctness that is smothering teachers and students alike. What you can observe, now that I expose it, in case you didn't know, is why exceptional people do not go into the teaching profession, why they tend to leave it in many different ways, why schools are failing and will continue to fail no matter how much money is poured into them, nor what enticements they offer to recruit talent. 

The problem is basic and structural and cannot be fixed. 
We are all under surveillance. The Panopticon is alive and well and represents our greatest danger. (Foucault)

We see one extraordinary teacher arriving to take the place of a much loved teacher. His classroom is classic, and older people will recognize their own experience. The rest of the teachers in the school are new age politically correct specimens, who know the rules, visible and invisible, which ones must be observed and which ones may be ignored, and willing to conform to them.  Coming from Algeria Monsieur Lazhar is culture innocent. A blessing. 

The classic authoritarian classroom may not be what modern educational methods prefer, but, and this is important, in the classic classroom there is NO phoniness, masking, "floating signs" covering up the authoritarian structure with good fellowship, and friendly group work, which hides the fact of authoritarianism behind a smiling, friendly mask of  an egalitarian classroom. The authoritarian structure is up front and direct and allows for the behavior of children to resolutely recognize it, and develop their individual ways of meeting it. When it is subversive and invisible, children are unable to come to any terms with it. No matter how nice-nice the school and teachers are, it is still a disciplinary institution to mold students into normality. For an extensive analysis see Foucault's Discipline and Punish and his 1974-75 
College de France Lectures on Abnormal.

Bachir Lazar is walking a tightrope with great finesse and compassion. He loses of course, and that's what happens to the best of teachers. They lose. The Foucauldian Grid defeats them. 

Only by compromising integrity can they continue. It matters not at all that Bachir's students perform well in their exams and that they are learning as well or better than students in other classrooms. Praising academic performance is a mask dissembling the fact that it is not learning that is the priority in a public educational setting. The dirty secret is that it is obedience and control.

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