Unpacking John Hughes – Lessons for Educators

Views: John Hughes’s Lessons – Inside Higher Ed.

This is a great little article by Maureen O’Connell in Inside Higher Ed magazine for educators to ponder. John Hughes left a legacy of films about adolescent relationships – with each other, with parents, but also with their own schools and teachers.

But for all of the examples of generational disconnect in the movies of the late director John Hughes (who died this month) also offers cues for avoiding the Bueller Triangle where meaningful interaction among adults and youth simply vanishes. In this light, Hughes’s films are revelatory for educators.

She goes on to plumb numerous John Hughes films for the key interactions between teachers, administrators, and students. You know, we’ve all seen them, identified with the kids, and perhaps squirmed uncomfortably as we recognize adults we know (or are.)

They don’t just want to study the historical, economic, political, psycho-sexual, and post-colonial contours of the red Ferrari. They want to drive it.

And adults like Andy Walsh’s broken-hearted father, Jack, or her eclectic boss, Iona, in “Pretty in Pink,” who teach young people by demonstrating what learning looks like — neither relating to them as peers nor hovering to try to protect them from life’s inevitable failures — provide the materials students need to make their own prom gowns, a now classic metaphor for navigating the drama of adolescence.

Sure, prom gowns and cars aren’t going to be on the test, but these kinds of connections to real life and the real motivations of kids are the priceless threads that connect, motivate, and teach.

John Hughes knew it. Some might think he was denigrating education because he often showed adults in an unflattering light. But he did also showed educators in moments of clarity when the walls came down and they saw students as real people on the ageless quest for identity, connection, and meaning in life.

RIP John Hughes, a great educator.


2 Replies to “Unpacking John Hughes – Lessons for Educators”

  1. Sylvia,
    I started teaching in 1984. While I enjoyed Hughes’ films, I was always troubled that while he did show some adults in a positive light, he never showed teachers in a positive light. I remember feeling frustrated by this as an educator.
    I agree that he was portraying stereotypes of teachers, who were comical in their incompetence. But at the same time, he started a trend of “teacher bashing” and an erosion of respect for the teaching profession that continues to this day.

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