All hail teacher
Whenever the mythmakers of Hollywood need to conjure a tear, they pick up a sappy yarn about an overly noble teacher, then poke the audience in the eye with oily tenderness.To hear the Screenwriters Guild tell it, teachers are the very embodiment of enlightenment. In La La Land teachers are portrayed as servants to a higher cause. They men and women bound to an oath of selflessness.Life is not about money, lust or power for these higher beings. Save fame and glory for cops and firefighters. Teachers prefer to nurture budding genius, mold minds, and transform C students into scholars without fuss or notice.This well-worn saga is such a pleasant fiction, isn’t it? Last time I paid attention in school, teachers were low-paid babysitters, not saints of knowledgeThen again, maybe I went to the wrong schools. And maybe I went to tough schools. Schools where the bread was moldy and the soup came cold, if it came at all. Schools where the principal owned Kevlar.But audiences love teacher tales. Just make them gooey and sweet, please. Which is why you’ll never see films dedicated to lecherous librarians, molesting math instructors or psychotic political science teachers.The money boys in Burbank know a good thing when they see it. That’s why they play the same trusted card over and over again.They made audiences bow when Sidney Poitier passed on a good paying career to waste his youth teaching to a bunch of Limey guttersnipes and hooligans with bad teeth in "To Sir With Love."They elaborated on the "teacher as hero" canard when Robin Williams instructed a gaggle of pubescent preppy boys on the finer points of Walt Whitman and suicide in "Dead Poet’s Society."Even Mr. Hand showed dedication to the craft by spending prom night teaching Jeff Spicoli the finer points of pre-Revolutionary America in "Fast Times At Ridgemont High.""The Emperor’s Club" is the latest teacher-as-Buddha fable to hit the big screen.The story centers on the teacher-student relationship inside an elite, all-boys boarding school.St. Benedict’s is an institution filled with the male progeny of America’s uber-crust. No crack heads or sex crazed cheerleaders from "Boston Public" in this house of learning.St. Benedicts is reserved for the top one percent who own everything in America today. You won’t find any slow learners, Ritalin junkies or A.D.D. slackers in this lot.When it comes to power and influence these blue-blooded bastards are just a step below Hogwarts and Harry Potter.Kevin Kline stars as Mr. Hundert, a friendly, if old-fashioned and long suffering teacher, who lectures his wealthy charges on Aristotle, Socrates, and ancient Rome. Hundert is a true Renaissance man who believes boys must study the classics to understand greatness.I’m sure Socrates could talk a good game in his day. They say he liked to think. Well, as far as I know, he spent too much time thinking about boys in togas. As for Julius Caesar, he may have made a fine salad dressing, but what else has he or any other Italian, save Mussolini, done for me lately?I figure it is better to study the modern giants than 2000-year-old geezers who hung out with goats. Who needs to memorize the battle plans of Mark Anthony or the meaning behind "vin vini vichi" when a simple "mega dittos" will do just fine?Hundert, however, sticks to his traditions when a pesky little punk named Sedgewick Bell disrupts the daily lesson plan by figuratively pissing on the Seven Hills of Rome.Undeterred by the student’s classless antics, Hundert takes the lad under his wing, intent on guiding the boy on the proper path. But this boy is the son of an U.S. Senator. The cut of his jib is not all it seems.The brunt of the story is set in the mid-1970s, but concludes in the present when the old teacher and the now 40-year-old pupil duel once more."The Emperor’s Club" is a fine film, worth noting for anyone who ever polished an apple or tried to be teacher’s pet.Until next time, Mr. Hernandez has left the theater to brush up on the classics: Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler.Nickey Hernandez is a former private investigator who could have made Honor Roll if he felt like studying.