kitchen table math, the sequel: Blind Side

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Blind Side

If you haven't seen Blind Side, you should. For anyone who has spent years of his life struggling to give his children an education, this is the movie. It's the movie for teachers waging the same struggle, too.

There's a moment, at the end, when Leigh Anne asks Michael if he even wants to play football. By this point he has been famously recruited by dozens of college coaches across the country and has committed to playing for Ole Miss, his new parents' alma mater. And only now does his mother ask him whether this is what he wants.

Michael answers, simply, "I'm pretty good at it."

For many of us, that's what education is about. A good education takes a small child and makes him good at reading, writing, and arithmetic whether he wants to be good at these things or not. The truth is, as Michael begins life with his adoptive parents, he doesn't want to play football. He's not suited to the game emotionally. But he learns to play because his parents and his coach and even his little brother painstakingly teach him to play, and they teach him to play because they know he can do it and because football matters to them. And now he plays well.

There's a lovely moment where Michael's new dad, Sean, recites The Charge of the Light Brigade. Michael asks why the 600 have to die, and Sean tells him it's because the leaders have made a mistake. So Michael writes a paper about what it means to trust your leaders, and to follow them.

At home, parents are the leaders; at school, teachers are.

But the real education leaders in this country, the ones deciding what our children will and, more importantly, will not learn, have made a mistake.

They've decided our children don't need to be in the game.


4 comments:

Allison said...

What?

Michael doesn't want to play football? He played because of them?

Did you read the book?

That has got to be that strangest interpretation of the book I've ever heard. It's as if you read a different book than I did. Is that interpretation from the film? In the book, the painstaking part was because he couldn't understand a word of how the coaches taught him plays, but he was a COMPLETE NATURAL on the field, and saw things there so easily that it was the only thing he was even remotely good at, and he was excellent at it. And the point of how they turn him from a failing, utterly failing student, to one who can pass, just pass, but they also teach him to read, to write, and do simple arithmetic.

The book doesn't pretend that his parents believe in education for education's sake, either. It's just a tool, a tool to get him into college, and into a life. He's got a future as a NFL player if they can just get him to college, and through college, and they play every single technicality they can to get him there.

K9Sasha said...

I saw an interview with the real Michael. He said the part he hated most about the film was when his "mom" came onto the football field and told him the team was his family and he was to have their backs. He hated it because football was the one thing he knew how to do, and in the film they took even that away from him.

Allison said...

k9sasha,

Did michael oher seem human in the interview?

That might sound odd, but the strangest thing about Lewis' book is that Oher is essentially a black box about how he feels. Lewis is so good in all of his other books at providing the emotional side for the strangest things--like the fabulous men with their money making machines---that it can't be a fault of his writing; Oher, he says, answers questions the way people want to hear, tells them whatever makes the questions top. So it seems he does not have any emotions, assumedly because it was dangerous to do so in his world. Oher didn't really contribute to the telling of the book's story much, either, according to Lewis' epilogue.

my favorite part of the book is when Michael tells Leigh Anne that he doesn't want one of those funny-- backpacks?polo shirts? because "that's what the rich kids have" and Leigh Anne says "michael, you ARE a rich kid now", and he realizes this, and accepts it, along with the backpack (or whatever it was).

Allison said...

I guess at the beginning he doesn't know how to play with the team. so i guess you could say the family has to teach him that. and certainly in the book, his motives are another black box, so the tuohy's motives will suffice. I guess that's what you could take away from the book, but gosh, that seems really far from the whole idea of what he does when he's actually on the field.