1. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whiplash Film & Teaching *Spoiler Alert*

    Discussion in 'Entertainment' started by Megalith, Mar 6, 2015.

    So I recently watched the critically acclaimed and award winning film, Whiplash. I have to say I was very impressed with this film. If you haven’t seen it I would recommend you stop reading now and go watch it when you have the chance. Then come back here if you want to talk about the film. :)

    Now my friend who also watched this film with me, was criticizing it based on the teacher’s performance. Explaining the Ameritocracy of it; the disciplinarian approach to teaching Fletcher had in the film and the unnecessary abuse brought on by Fletcher’s self-righteous motive.(training the next great musical artist)

    In this case I had little to say about his perspective as it was mostly spot on. But I think the film wasn’t trying to defend fletcher’s actions really. Rather it was making a larger point about a relationship that two people can have that goes beyond family and love. One so selfishly raw and pure that it easily overpowered anything else in their lives. In this sense Fletcher was less a teacher and more a tool for the next great musical artist. Fletcher was merely exercising his will to try and find and mold such an artist. While people who went to the school were the potentials that Fletcher tested with his abuse.

    [The following scene takes place in a jazz bar, where Andrew runs into Fletcher.]
    Fletcher: I don't think people understood what it was I was doing at Shaffer. I wasn't there to conduct. Any fucking moron can wave his arms and keep people in tempo. I was there to push people beyond what's expected of them. I believe that is... an absolute necessity. Otherwise, we're depriving the world of the next Louis Armstrong. The next Charlie Parker. I told you about how Charlie Parker became Charlie Parker, right?

    Andrew: Jo Jones threw a cymbal at his head.

    Fletcher: Exactly. Parker's a young kid, pretty good on the sax. Gets up to play at a cutting session, and he fucks it up. And Jones nearly decapitates him for it. And he's laughed off-stage. Cries himself to sleep that night, but the next morning, what does he do? He practices. And he practices and he practices with one goal in mind, never to be laughed at again. And a year later, he goes back to the Reno and he steps up on that stage, and plays the best motherfucking solo the world has ever heard. So imagine if Jones had just said: "Well, that's okay, Charlie. That was all right. Good job. "And then Charlie thinks to himself, "Well, shit, I did do a pretty good job." End of story. No Bird. That, to me, is an absolute tragedy. But that's just what the world wants now. People wonder why jazz is dying.

    Andrew: But Isn't their a line? You push someone so far that they are discouraged and you stop them from becoming the next Charlie Parker?

    Fletcher: Nah, the next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged.
    [End Scene]

    This gives us insight into Fletcher's brashness and reasoning. When Andrew first joins the band, before his first chance on the drums, he is summarized this Charlie Parker story by Fletcher also adding, “You get it right? You just need to relax and don’t worry about those other people in there. Because you believe you’re here for a reason, right?”

    I think this shows the insanity that Fletcher stands behind, turning around and giving him some credence. He expects them to be able to take the beating he dishes. He never stops giving them chances, showing that they are never truly abandoned even if they are kicked from the band. And I don’t think anyone gave Fletcher credit for this, accusing him of being an unfair dictator. If Andrew took his advice, he would never have insisted on playing Caravan near the first climax of the movie. Andrew didn’t care to explain himself because he knew it wouldn’t matter to Fletcher. He merely insisted on the part and that got him the accident that ended his time at Shaffer and got Fletcher fired. Andrew was motivated so much by this part, that no cosmic coincidence would have been worth giving up the part for, especially after how close he got. But he didn’t realize that playing the part or not, the skills he obtained in mastering such a song would be so much more valuable than this instance, where one of the other drummers was given a chance.

    Sure Fletcher was being unreasonable. And yes it was drastic, over the top, and unrealistic. But the point of the movie is that greatness demands being unreasonable/unrealistic with yourself. Rising above each failure, no matter the circumstances behind it, because as long as you aren’t discouraged, it will continually become a drive to become something more. Sure this movie was more about technical playing than the ‘soul’ of jazz. But to make this as objective as possible, I don’t see the problem with that, or see a problem with using Buddy Rich as Andrew’s role model.

    None of this is to defend the insanity behind Fletcher’s actions, but rather to point out the insanity of greatness itself and the finely polished line that it has become. To be remembered forever means to reach new heights. To believe there is such a height is the aristocratic nature of greatness. A height that echoes through the ages leaving stains of remembrance through many things that come after. Each a mark that can be tracked back to a single source. A source that will be remembered because it has such an everlasting effect on our culture. (And I am not talking about trends or memes)

    I wanted this to be a sort of think tank, so i'm posing a lot of questions from here on out. So to get into the knitty gritty with this film I'm going to start talking about how the relationship between Fletcher and Andrew relates to teaching. Is there anywhere such a dramatic teaching style would be valid? Minus the exaggerated abuse, can such a powerful relationship be used to create more greatness than we witness today?

    We see many examples of similar relationships, like the one people share with their personal trainer. Someone who judges your progress and pushes you past what you thought yourself possible to accomplish. More abusive relationships are seen in the military, and they beat combat into you. We know of some of its applications, but is it really just an athletic or physical enhancement tool? I would think not.

    I believe physique to be so fundamental to athleticism, the measure so objective, the pain of pushing and overcoming is impossible to avoid or subtract from the equation. Of course factors like natural ability will always calculate into it, but either way, to most it is a commitment to want to change your diet and physique. And maybe that is where we should draw this fine line between teaching material and becoming a drive to push our limits. Like how we choose a rival to compete against in certain situations. We must be willing to make the sacrifice. That is to say, we shouldn't be forced to take on this type of challenge.

    Have any of you had teachers that people considered to be mean, but actually drove you to perform better than your other, more lenient classes; teachers that actually shared their disappointment in you, even under the smallest and seemingly unimportant circumstances; the ones that taught with a passion that let you know how much they actually care? I always felt teacher's like these were becoming scarce as I ran into them less and less often through my time in children's prison, or K-12 as some like to call it. I believed that to be because the overall attitude the students had deterred the caring and passionate teacher. Learning is a two way street. They say you can take the horse to the water but you can't make it drink. And I think most teacher's are now halfheartedly teaching because most students don't want to drink. A domino effect of discouragement and apathy. This is just a reflection of the school's I have attended and American schooling in general.

    Those of you in other countries, what is it like? Is it similar or becoming similar? Or do you have these passionate teachers in abundance? Is it really the students that discourage the teachers, or the system the teachers use? Is because we are moving away from strictness and becoming coddlers? Do you have to find a happy medium? Or is there more to it? A more proactive and specialized approach for every student? Is something like that possible? Or are we deciding now that strictness on children is harsh and unnecessary? For physiological reasons? If so, Is this decision protecting the majority or the minority? Are we sacrificing something fundamental to society's growth by making and protection decision like this one, whose effects we don't completely understand?

    What do you guys think we can really take away from this film? Should this type of relationship be forged with all teachers? Or should it be reserved for very specialized fields that we'd only consider through a serious commitment? What kind of message did you get from this film?
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2015
  2. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is a little hard for me to address this objectively since I do not react to external pressure well at all. When my interest is motivated and challenged I am my own hardest taskmaster. But having someone try to force me to learn or to perfect a craft would utterly turn me off.

    However, in general I find that children do respond better to a degree of firmness and to have expectations placed upon them, rather than simply giving them the tools and somehow hoping their natural curiosity will drive them to learn. The latter can work, but in this modern high pressure world there is often not the time for that to happen and a child will fall by the wayside if he or she does not keep up with their peers.

    That being said, there will always be children who need more patience and guidance, and they are not necessarily the less intelligent ones either. The trouble is that a public education system cannot possible provide the kind of individual attention that would be ideal. The best that can be done is to set up a school system that is highly competitive, but at the same time providing sufficient alternative paths for those who for whatever reason do not fit in well with what is considered the normal pace or style of learning. Some of the best performing systems in the world are in Asia, and despite what many believe, the days of rote learning are long gone in that part of the world in countries like China, Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
     
  3. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, the pressure that can drive us to new heights can be the very reason to stop doing something. Especially when the particular subject lacks our interest. But are we being stubborn when pressure turns us off to a subject of great interest? I think the key ingredient is respecting the individual who is pressuring you. Is it the teacher's job to get the respect of their students? Is it the parents, or the system? The setting? Where does this respect fail exactly? Of course there must be more to the individual that we are not taking into account, like a laid back world view. But is it this worldview that we must defeat?

    have you ever heard of Khan Academy? You can learn just about any subject K-12, FOR FREE, tracks your every progress, and ensures the subject is taught through specialized testing. It is an interesting system that is newly being tested in selected schools. The studies on teaching on the site shows that peers who fall behind often catch up after understanding the material that they were caught up on. Often times their careful understanding leads to them overshooting other students who passed that material quickly. It's a neat system that allows the teacher's to track progress electronically, making it easy to check which students are falling behind and where. The subjects are taught professionally by the asian teacher, Khan, through formal videos. The material is taught so that the only way the student can continue is to systematically prove they understand the material through a random set of a huge pool questions pertaining to that particular subject.(Step by proper step it builds on itself, so much more carefully then any first-day-of-the-semester-itinerary I've ever seen)

    Supposedly it allows the teachers more time for activities that are more interesting than math by dividing these hard subject to a specific amount of time, rather than trying to drag the whole class along the same parts of it and blaming and getting frustrated with stragglers who hold the rest of the class behind. So more school fun, and that would have been awesome growing up. It might tackle this mindset and lack of respect. But I don't know how this system works in high school, or if the same system by high school would get utterly impossible to digest without vomiting inside your mind.

    Yes rote learning is so archaic it is disturbing that we haven't realized something so simple. I relearned my maths through Khan and found that prior, I had a rudimentary understanding of the formulas I had learned. Now I understand how the formulas work and why. This goes miles into understanding advances concepts like math theory and pure mathematics. Memorizing formulas is the devil's advocate!
     

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