Wednesday, July 13, 2005

We Need More Coach Carters

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I recently watched the movie “Coach Carter”. Man, was I floored. When looked at simply as a film, it’s nothing more than ordinary. However, when viewed from a social perspective, it’s amazingly eye-opening.

For those who have never heard of it, here’s the premise: a former basketball star and accomplished businessman accepts a job at his old high school to coach the basketball team. The school is located in one of the worst ghetto areas in the state of California. Crime, drugs, and violence are rampant. It is the inner city at its worst. He inherits a team of underachievers who care more about their personal stats and fighting each other than they do winning games. The first thing he does is makes the players sign contracts promising, among other things, to maintain a grade point average of 2.3. He demands discipline. Eventually he turns them into winners and they are one of the hottest teams in the state, going undefeated. However, he soon discovers that most of the players on the team have been failing several classes. Some of them have been skipping classes altogether and the teachers were covering for them because they were basketball fans. He decides to play tough and locks the team out of practice and games until the grades come up.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

There is an immediate uproar from parents, local residents, and even the education board. They all have the attitude that these guys are never going to get anywhere in life because they’re from the inner city, so why not let them have basketball? It’s the one bright spot in their lives after all. Carter says no, that’s the wrong attitude. They’re doomed because of that kind of attitude. We need to make these guys understand that they CAN make something out of themselves if they apply themselves and learn. The parents, residents and education board fight him and vote to resume the season and Carter quits. The players suddenly decide to do it his way and start cracking the books. Eventually the grades come up and they make the state tournament. You can watch the movie for the rest.

What floored me about this movie was that it is a true story. It really happened. You have to keep that in mind as you watch the movie. That’s what separates this movie from all the others like it. Whenever someone makes an inspirational film like this, the temptation is always to dismiss it by saying, “Well, that’s not real life, that stuff only happens in the movies”. But this film IS real life. And it really DID happen. My wife is not from the US and sometimes doesn’t understand different aspects of our society. With that in mind, I told her this as we were watching the movie – if you want to see first hand why most people in the inner cities of America will never get out and are doomed to keep repeating the cycle of being poor and raising a family in the ghetto, watch this movie. Listen to what the parents are saying. Look at the attitudes of the so-called educators. And remember to keep in mind that this really happened. This is the attitude that prevails in the inner city and it’s what’s keeping them down and out. It’s what is preventing them and their children from getting out of there. Forget about politics. Forget about race. Forget about everything else. Watch “Coach Carter” and you’ll understand why young people never escape the inner city unless they make it as a professional athlete or a hip hop artist.

What’s more, try to watch in on DVD if possible and be sure to watch the special feature documentary about the making of the movie. It recounts the real story of Coach Carter, features interviews with the real Carter and his players, and gives an update on where some of the players are now. It makes you shake your head in near disgust to see how some of the players who were destined to a life in the inner city selling drugs, working minimum wage jobs, and going nowhere are now attending college. Some of them are even going on the graduate school. All because one man refused to buy into the victim mentality and convinced them that they can make it by working hard, studying, and staying out of trouble.

If only the inner city had more Coach Carters and fewer Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons.



Michael said...

Yeah, I haven't seen the movie yet, but I heard about it. And it's so true. So many people opt to play the role of victim instead of working their way up. They feel they've been let down or wronged somehow and other people should do stuff for them, not once taking responsibility for their situation and try to get out or make it better.. That's, I think, one of the main causes why ghettos are still around.

Dutched Pinay on Expatriation said...

I like social topics Rik, good that you brought this up even though I haven't watched the movie.

I hate the "victim mentality" really. We do have that kind of mentality back in the Philippines. Though the difference is, when a Filipino is exposed to a good working government and society system, he/she is quick to adapt and fend for himself/herself. With other minorities, I just do not understand how lazy or jaded they are?

Notice too that they also have this "get rich quick mentality" and "its your fault mentality"?

Here in NL is quite worse. I have seen people living on uitkering (social benefits) for their hand to mouth existence in this country. The sad thing, most of them are foreigners. They gives us foreigners a bad name! And because the social system in Holland is like heaven sent, they all come in hordes. Good that our immigration minister has lead an iron fist hand on these matters.

Ed Abbey said...

The pre-college educational system sucks and is a world of hurt. In my opinion, we need to privatize the system and allow all schools to NOT be equal. That way, some of the best aren't pulled down by those who don't care. I speak from personal experience on this one because once upon a time I wanted to excel and was denied because I had to remain with my peers.

Rik said...

Micheal & DP - You're both right, but what makes the situation in the film even more amazing is that not only do they play the victim, but when their children are given a golden opportunity to get out of the ghetto, they do everything they can to discourage it.

ED - I know exactly what you mean. In fact, there's one scene in the movie that made me just lower my head in disgust. At the meeting where everyone airs their greivances about Coach Carter, one teacher - a TEACHER! - stands up and says something like, "There's nothing in my contract that says I have to provide progress reports to the basketball coach. This is just making more work for me".

Gee, I thought going the extra mile to ensure your students succeed was part of being a teacher? Guess I was wrong.