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Traditions Paper Film Choices

Traditions Paper


You will write a five page paper about a popular film depicting schools in the U.S or abroad. In the paper, you should make connections to course readings and class discussions as you analyze the film. (In other words: this is not a film review, but a critical analysis of a film using course concepts and readings). This assignment is designed to provide students an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of class readings, particularly the curricular traditions of education (e.g. humanist, social efficiency, progressive, critical), as well as other broad social issues (e.g., social reproduction, privilege, race or class bias, struggles of identity and culture, etc.).

Organizing the Paper

  • Select one film.
  • You do not have to analyze the entirety of the film. Simply focus on 3 to 4 scenes or plot twists that illustrate key aspects of curricular traditions and issues in education.
  • Be sure to discuss the curricular traditions present (and not present) in the film, by giving examples of various scenes and connecting them to course readings:
    • How would particular writers or theorists from course readings classify the teaching and learning depicted? (i.e. Hirsch, Dewey, Kohn, Freire)
    • What critiques might course writers and theorists make about the depiction of teaching and learning?
    • What traditions are missing? Why?
    • What is the most dominant tradition depicted? Does it clash or compliment other traditions depicted in the film? How so?
    • Do the traditions depicted change over time in the film? How so?
  • Be sure to discuss other concepts or broad social issues present in the film. What might course writers say about these issues?
  • Be sure to give your overall evaluation of the film:
    • How well does the film depict (accurately) various curricular traditions?
    • How well does the film depict broad social issues, tensions, or goals of education?
    • What do you think about the film’s depiction of the role of school in society?
  • You do not have to answer all of the questions posed here, but they serve as a guide to

Potential films for analysis (your are free to go off of this list, but please consult with me first):

  1. Admission (2013)
  2. Akeelah the Bee (2006)
  3. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
  4. Breakfast Club (1985)
  5. Dangerous Minds (1995)
  6. Dead Poets Society (1989)
  7. Educating Rita (1983)
  8. Emperor’s Club (2002)
  9. Finding Forrester (2000)
  10. Freedom Writers (2007)
  11. Good Will Hunting (1997)
  12. The Great Debaters (2007)
  13. Hidden Figures (2016)
  14. Higher Learning (1995)
  15. Karate Kid (1984)
  16. Lean on Me (1989)
  17. Little Women (1994)
  18. McFarland, USA (2015)
  19. Mean Girls (2004)
  20. The Miracle Worker (1962)
  21. Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
  22. Moonlight (2016)
  23. Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
  24. Music of the Heart (1999)
  25. Pariah (2011)
  26. Pay it Forward (2000)
  27. Renaissance Man (1994)
  28. Sarafina (1992) South African film
  29. School of Rock (2003)
  30. Sister Act 2 (1993)
  31. Spare Parts (2015)
  32. Stand and Deliver (1988)
  33. Summer School (1987)
  34. Teachers (1984)
  35. To Sir, With Love (1967)
  36. Whiplash (2014)

Traditions Paper Rubric

Papers will be graded on the following criteria:

  • Depth of knowledge about curricular traditions and issues in education
  • Quality of examples and references to readings (e.g. at least 3-5 citations from course material). Please do not go outside of the course material for your citations
  • Accurate and detailed description of scenes from the film that support claims about its representation of various traditions and issues in education
  • General thoughtfulness and clear position about the film and its depiction of education in the U.S. and/or abroad
  • Writing that is clear and easy to follow; while the purpose of this class is not to teach writing, writing that is unclear or unorganized will affect your grade






Introduction and central argument (10%)

Clear and insightful thesis; explains the argument being made in the paper; provides a clear “road map”

Clear thesis that partially explains the argument being made; provides a “road map” that the paper mostly follows

Present thesis, but lacks sufficient discussion of the argument being made; “road map” is not clearly followed in the paper

Very difficult to identity, unclear, or inappropriate thesis for the assignment; no discussion of the position taken throughout the paper

Description of traditions in the film excerpts, as well as connections to readings in the course (30%)

Sophisticated explanations/ illustrations; well-constructed descriptions based on film; thoughtful discussion of complexities involved in education theories and traditions; sophisticated integration of quotations/ paraphrases

Well constructed explanations, but minor discussion of each tradition’s theorists; superficial integration of quotations/ paraphrasing

Superficial explanations with some inaccuracies; very few connections to class readings; very weak integration of quotations/ paraphrasing

Inaccurate or missing definitions of traditions; no connections to readings/ authors; absent quotations or paraphrasing

Explanation of pedagogy and curriculum appropriate to each tradition (20%)

Sophisticated explanation; thoughtful discussion of the complexities involved in theories and who supports each type of instruction; makes links to social class structure, race, gender, etc.

Descriptions of pedagogy are clear, but minor discussions of the major theories from the class; links to some social structures, but not in detail

Superficial definitions with some inaccuracies; mention of the major theorists, but only superficial, or with some errors; no mention of social structure in education

Inaccurate or missing explanation of instructional types; serious errors in matching pedagogy to traditions

Description of author’s own position about the film’s representation of education (20%)

Clearly stated, sophisticated statement of position about the film’s depiction of education and broad issues related to class readings on education; clear rationale for writer’s final opinion on the film; evidence from the film and readings clearly integrated

States position about the author’s position on the film; uses some evidence from the film and readings, but is not very convincing; it is only somewhat clear why the author holds this position

Present, but superficial and not supported well by evidence from the film or readings; it is very unclear why the author holds this position


Organization and clarity (10%)

Coherent and clear; all paragraphs support thesis statement; each paragraph

cumulatively builds case; each paragraph supports its topicsentence; clear transitions; clear writing

Mostly coherent; paragraphs generally supports thesis statement, but some structure is confusing; some points may be off topic; transitions present; few unclear sentences

Often lacks coherence; mixed support for thesis statement; organization is difficult to follow; transitions often weak or missing; confusing or unclear sentences throughout

Incoherent, lacks support for thesis; paper is unorganized; transitions missing, making organization unclear; numerous unclear sentences

Punctuation, grammar, formatting, etc. (10%)

No mechanical errors, correct formatting, page numbers, margins

Minor mechanical errors, is occasionally distracting to the reader

Moderate mechanical errors, takes away from the argument by significantly distracting the reader

Major mechanical errors; seriously hampers the reader’s ability to understand the argument being made or follow the argument


Tags: Film, Essay, Film Essay, Writing