So what do people do on a Friday night? If you’re me, apparently you peruse youtube for Hallmark movies. But the point is that purely by chanced, and because I’m a sucker for inspirational teacher films, I stumbled upon the 1981 film The Marva Collins Story, starring Cicely Tyson and Morgan Freeman as Mara and Clarence Collins respectively. The film is based on the true story of Marva Collins., a Chicago education who started her own school in 1975 and received national wide recognition for her work.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the film, but conservative values and complete bashing of the Federal Government was not.
The film opens with Marva at her school teaching things that we would never see being taught at an Elementary School level today. She was teaching Hercules and Plato. While the rest of the school is bustling and chaotic, her children actually behave. At a teachers meeting that afternoon after yet another false fire alarm rings she is disenfranchised by her fellow educators who do not seem to care at all about the children.
So what does a woman do in the face of such opposition? She decides to open up her own school. Using her retirement money and not a cent from the government they turn a secondary apartment into a little school house. Her students, aside from her own two youngest, are not upper class students nor are they the cream of the crop, at least not until after they start learning from Mrs. Collins. She teaches them that through hard work they can achieve anything and that “welfare is just another word for slavery.” These kids come to her broken by their schools, hurt by teachers who did not take the time to properly teach them and she makes them into winners.
She taught them how to read and write all while being incredibly kind and incredibly tough on them. She taught them Shakespeare and Dickens, and so much more. Through hard times in the school and at home she never took a cent of Federal Funding for recognition. She built her school’s reputation from nothing herself, teaching a mix of so called “dumb”, who turned out to be brilliant, and poor kids who now had a chance at an actual future and a better life.
Budget wise it is a pretty low cost movie, but you completely forget about as you listen to her words and her methods. There were times where my jaw literally dropped and I applauded. The self-made attitude, the hard work, the dislike of the welfare system as a crutch is all a huge part of conservative values and things we believe in. If my words aren’t enough to convince you how about everyone else’s. It holds a 7.3/10 on IMDB and it has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
This is a movie that I think current educators and the federal government need to see and understand that the old ways of teaching are not always bad and being tough but caring to the kids, and not lowering standards, is the best way to help them and rise up.