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Schooling the State

Teachers and Democratic Dispositions on The West Wing

Series:

Stephanie Schroeder

Abstract

The West Wing highlights the democratic dispositions of teachers and extends the larger historical narratives surrounding both the moral superiority of teachers and, as moral agents, teachers’ central role in the cultivation of a democratic citizenry. Beyond the extension of these historical narratives, the depictions of White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry’s daughter, Mallory, a fourth grade teacher, or Mr. Willis, an eighth grade social studies teacher from Ohio filling his deceased wife’s congressional seat, offer a counter narrative desperately needed both at the time the show aired and in the present day, as teachers are demonized as the problem, not the solution, to a national educational crisis. The West Wing, then, both builds on and challenges dominant depictions of teachers, all the while reminding us of the crucial role of teachers in a democratic society.

Saved by the Belles

Gender Roles in the Quintessential Teen Comedy

Series:

Elizabeth Currin and Stephanie Schroeder

Abstract

Managing an impressive television feat, the classic teen sitcom Saved by the Bell delicately evolved over a seven-year span as its young stars grew from pubescent unknowns on Good Morning, Miss Bliss to fledgling adults on Saved by the Bell: The College Years. An extensive cultural touchstone, steeped in commentary on schools even in its title, Saved by the Bell offers ample representative data on American adolescents at the end of the 20th century. Here, we narrow the scope to gender and shift our gaze from students to teachers, taking a critical look at three episodes: “Summer Love,” in which a heartbroken Zack seeks extracurricular counsel from Miss Bliss, who happens to be squeezing a romantic date into her busy schedule; “Student-Teacher Week,” when Zack and Kelly, as principal and teacher, embody historically gendered roles; and “Kelly and the Professor,” when Professor Lasky ultimately encourages the young co-ed’s crush. Collectively, these episodes depict varying teacher-student relationships from junior high through post-secondary, and despite the show’s trademark campiness, they illustrate the sorts of genuine dilemmas real educators face, albeit neatly resolved in thirty minutes or less.

Class is in Session

Why Now Is the Time for a Marxist Approach to the Canon

Series:

Elizabeth Currin, Stephanie Schroeder and Todd Mccardle