Blackboard Jungle (1955)

In the movie Blackboard Jungle, Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) becomes a teacher at a high school, and it is a jungle indeed. Mean, scary, and dangerous, the students are a bunch of savages. Later in the film, Dadier is taken on a tour of another school, and what a bunch of polite, well-mannered, well-dressed students they are, attending to their lessons, right after singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” The point is to show that not all teenagers are bad. But what no one seems to notice, even though it should be obvious, is that the good school has both boys and girls in it, whereas Dadier’s high school is for boys only. That is why I always shudder when I hear people argue that students do better when they attend an all-boy or all-girl school. The girls may do better, but without girls around, boys become even more brutal than they already are.

Anyway, the problem is not solved by making the school go co-educational. Rather, the movie’s solution is to concentrate all the evil into just one student, Artie West (Vic Morrow), and then get rid of that student. And the evil in that student is explained in terms of alcohol. When West pulls out his switchblade knife, Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier) warns Dadier, “Watch out Chief! He’s floating on Sneaky Pete wine.” The other students help subdue West, and once he is expelled, we discover that all the rest of the students are basically good.

That is about as realistic as when Dorothy throws water on the Wicked Witch, melting her, and we find out that the winged monkeys are basically good creatures, happy the witch is gone.

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