Act your age!

Aside from being really, really funny, this 1949 Coronet film portrays the teen angst of young Jim, who is trying to find emotional maturity. Through the guidance of his wise father-figure principal, Jim seeks atonement through sanding/varnishing the destroyed desk and an excessive amount of conversation. (I’m wondering what else Principal Edmonds has to do, because he spends a lot of time mentoring Jim…guess folks got a lot more accomplished without all those pesky e-mails!)

Now, we don’t know much about young Jim’s homelife. We don’t know what his parents do, if he has siblings, or why he’s struggling with simple algebra. We don’t know much about him at all, except that he has destructive impulses and knows the definition for ‘infantile.’ But he is trying to grow up. He even makes himself a chart.

This film is far from reality – its exposition is flimsy and message over-wrought. But it does make its point: you can’t go it alone. The spectrum of self-preservation, lizard-brain, and selfishness on one end to the extreme of martyrdom and sacrifice on the other is an internal conflict we all face. Emotional maturity is tricky. Sometimes we just need to throw a hissy fit because we are not getting what we need. There are several examples: class clown, poor sportsmanship, crying over ‘trifles,’ (I especially like that one!), not being able to take a joke; all of these ‘infantile reactions’ scream for therapy.

Maybe we should remake this film to be a more modern adaptation to our current situations. But we are still not getting what we need, much less what we want.

Opening shot: young patron writing on his arm and desks with a Sharpie pilfered from the teacher’s desk, drawing a gang symbol. Busted! Off to the Vice Principal’s office for a suspension (this is his fifth offense in two weeks for vandalism, profanity, and other violations). He stays home for a week, wandering outside only for Jack-in-the-Box shakes and to see when his friends can go hang out. During the day, he sleeps in until 10 or so, plays video games, and waits. Mom is at her first job of three. He stays up until 3AM, texting his friends, and preventing them from sleeping. Next day: very tired teenagers trying to think. Pan to teacher, narrator’s voice: “How is Miss Teacher going to gain these students’ attention, trust, and effort? She must entertain them greater than the good folks at Robot Chicken and X-Box, that’s how! Go get ’em, Miss Teacher!” (Okay, I’m going to stop here, because I feel that my vision is getting a little bitter–and I don’t want that; I really do love my job and my students–it’s the other adults/educational pundits I’m having trouble with now.)

So, I’ll think I’ll pitch my idea to my students, and see what they come up with to remake this film. Give us some production time, after the state’s high-stakes testing, the RIFs, the merit pay debate, the blah-blah-blah, and we’ll get it in the can. And, scene!

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