School’s Cool: A Confliction of Two 80’s Movies

There are two movies from the late-1980’s that I’ve been thinking about recently. They are Stand and Deliver (1988) and Lean on Me (1989). Both are based on true stories, and both are set in inner-city schools and involve troubled youths.

I’m sure the movies are not exactly like the real-life events, but I’m just going with what the movies portrayed.

In Stand and Deliver, we have Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos), a teacher at a Los Angeles high school. In Lean on Me, we have Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman), the principal at a Paterson high school.

Both men cared a great deal about their students, though they were both quite ruthless and demanding. I don’t doubt that this was true of the real-life Escalante and Clark. I respect and admire their efforts to encourage and push their students to achieve better lives than the ones they seemed destined for.

But there is something in Stand and Deliver that I have a problem with and never quite understood. One of Escalante’s students wanted to be an auto-mechanic. Escalante strongly disapproved of this, to the point that he was bullying the student. He seemed to be implying that auto-mechanics are losers and that the student was seeking a dead-end career.

That was strange to me. Isn’t it enough that the student had a goal? What’s wrong with being an auto-mechanic? Who’s going to fix your car when it breaks down, Escalante, if you’re shaming people for considering a career as an auto-mechanic?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the nation, a girl at Joe Clark’s school is mad because the vice principal said she cannot take the auto shop class that she really wants to take. When Joe Clark hears this, he immediately writes a note and tells the girl to take it to the vice principal, adding “You know how much auto-mechanics make? $17 an hour.”


I’m not crazy about those movies, except for Die Hard and A Christmas Story. I love A Christmas Story and I refuse to go through Christmas Day without watching it at least once.

But I tend to like everything that’s professionally made. Some better than others, but I’ll probably like it whatever it is. If the people who made the movie know what they’re doing, then it’s probable that I’ll have no complaints.

I barely think of Planes, Trains and Automobiles as a Christmas movie, but I guess that is what it is. The thing that really moves me in that movie is Del sitting alone in the car missing his dead wife. It’s more powerful after I found out at the end that his wife was dead. I like how Neal opened the door and told Del to come in, and they spent the night drinking the those little liquor bottles that Del had in his massive trunk.

Home Alone. How can you not like a movie that has Joe Pesci? I mean, seriously. Joe Pesci! But my favorite parts of Home Alone is when Kevin has that talk with Mr. Marley at the church, and then at the end when Kevin looks out the window and sees Mr. Marley had made peace with his son. That last scene makes me teary-eyed every time.

I often rewatch movies just to see those little scenes that touched my heart.


Last night I watched “The 12th Man” on Netflix. I thought a couple scenes were ridiculous, but I really liked the movie. It’s baseed on the true story of Jan Sigurd Baalsrud who fled the Nazis in Norway in 1943.


I just made it to end of Contagion. Great movie. It also helped me to understand some things better.

So, a bat could mix something in with a pig that’s in line to be eaten by humans, and that can become a deadly virus. Yeah, I can get behind that theory, since bats are the creepiest mammals on the planet.

Prepare for riots.