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Is “Dream School” a reality-TV nightmare?

With shows like American Idol and The Voice suggesting that anyone can become a pop star, it was only a matter of time before we had a reality show suggesting that anyone can be a teacher.

In 2010, A&E brought us Teach, which featured actor Tony Danza teaching English at a Philadelphia high school. Danza went on to write a book, aptly titled I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High.

Now we have Dream School, which premiered last week on cable TV. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and rapper 50 Cent produce this show that follows celebrity attempts to teach 15 teenagers who have either dropped out or been expelled from school.

The celebrity teachers’ mission is “to excite these young minds, reignite their passions, and get them to graduate from a real, accredited high school,” according to the show’s publicists.

The show’s real-life dropouts have all faced challenges familiar to anyone in urban education: teen pregnancy, bullying, drug addiction, a dying family member. They have come to Dream School for what the show’s publicists call a “last chance” to graduate high school.

What groundbreaking tactics do the intrepid celebrity teachers bring to the classroom? Well, for starters, 50 Cent kicks off the first day of homeroom by, brace yourselves, asking the students to suggest classroom rules.

“In a traditional school, these students would just be expected to follow the rules,” says Dream School’s principal (who off-screen is the superintendent of a suburban school system in California). “But here, we want to empower and motivate each and every kid to be part of the process.”

Did you hear that, you teachers in “traditional” schools? Is it possible that you somehow missed that you’re supposed to empower and motivate your students?

Oliver Stone is the history teacher, and if you think of every approach you would not use for reaching your most disengaged students, you’ll get a sense of Stone’s instructional strategies. He drones on while the camera zooms in on the clock ticking and students falling asleep at their desks. “This is a great example for folks coming in: Teaching is hard,” observes the principal.

Teaching is hard – but this show seems to us at Edwize like a shameful gimmick that’s disrespectful to both teachers and high-risk students. Can you imagine the outcry if we had a show, Dream Courtroom, where non-credentialed celebrities represented defendants in their “last chance” to avoid prison? Or Dream Hospital, where celebrities acting as doctors became their patients’ “last chance”…literally?

What do you think? Does Dream School reinforce the public’s misunderstanding of what makes a good teacher? Or, could the show have a positive impact by showing that teaching is not as easy as some may think?

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15 Comments:

  • 1 CMB
    · Oct 16, 2013 at 11:14 am

    The idea that “anyone can be a teacher” is most insultingly, and perhaps more detrimentally, perpetuated by Teach for America. Maybe Oliver Stone’s students were dreaming of an actual Dream School – one where unprepared, amateur teachers aren’t parading in and out of struggling schools through a revolving door.

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  • 4 Arthur Goldstein
    · Oct 18, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Maybe they call it dream school in honor of the sleeping students.

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  • 6 Kyran V.
    · Oct 19, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Dream School is a nightmare… with America’s youth today, it seems everyone thinks that a quick free ride is all you need and not hard work. School is hard, but it’s supposed to be. You get what you work for. Shows like this make me sad to be an American at times.

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  • 9 Corpie S.
    · Oct 21, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    I feel that this show is a mockery to all teachers. As a teacher, I know that we do the best we can to help these students become successful. We get blamed for everything. So a show that have celebrities teach for 30 days is suppose to inspire us? How about we, as a nation start putting education as a priority? No more political BS, older teachers need to retire in order to have new teachers with innovative ideas can put them to practice, and parents needs to stop expecting teachers to raise their children. This reality show is in the category of Jersey Shore, The Kardashians, and Honey Boo Boo. It’s sad that I even know the name of these shows.

  • 10 laloba
    · Nov 5, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Dream School is aptly named. It is an insult to credentialed teachers who teach 35 unruly kids five periods a day. The pregnant girl is dead inside. The angry boy needs a good ass-kicking. Stop blaming teachers for the failures of the system. A good analogy would be a physician trying to treat a sick patient who wont co-operate with treatment. Some of these kids just don’t care about getting an education because they come from ignorant, deprived, limited backgrounds. They know that eventually the tax payers will support them either via welfare or prison. America has some of the most uneducated people on earth. Lots of ass kissing here. I feel sorry for the baby of the dullard pregnant girl. It will undoubtedly grow up to be dumb because of his dumb mother and extremely poor nutrition. No brain food here. Most of these kids don’t eat right and it has affected them since birth. The dumbest people are having even dumber kids. Future nightmares for America. End the entitlements that enable these people to procreate without responsibility or without the brains to work or support themselves. Survival is for the fittest.

  • 11 Melinda
    · Nov 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I watched the show. It is not mocking teachers at all and is just using a different technique to reach these at risk kids. They use a different approach to reach them that teachers cant do because the school system crowds the classroom. I ama substitute and I have teachers as friends and know how hard they work. If you can reach a student using this approach then I say go for it. Honestly it is still up to those students to do the work and decide they want to continue their education.

  • 12 LillithMc
    · Nov 9, 2013 at 12:35 am

    Tyla has a Mother who doesn’t care about her and offers a home that clearly is bad for Tyla. The Principal of the school repeats how emotional he is about her graduating, but the entire school blames the homeless pregnant girl and lets her go back to the street daily. What is this show trying to do? Are kids supposed to be so in love with these guests that their dysfunctional families are ignored and the society in which they live is ignored?

  • 13 Larry
    · Nov 10, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    I have only seen a couple episodes due to being locked out. I was hoping that I would find new tools that I could use to motivate my higher ed students. That has not happened within these episodes. What I saw was lecturing, which is not the most effective form of teaching.

    I don’t believe this is a mockery of K-12 teachers. What it shows is how difficult their task is to teach kids. It also illustrates that being a teacher requires more than celebrity status.

  • 14 Warren
    · Dec 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    The show is just another example of how dumbed down America has become. Just look at the vast wasteland of the most atrocious television shows being broadcasted are in their “full glory” in these troubled times we live.

    Thankfully more and more young people are not watching television much anymore. The egregious “reality” show format is truly a serious sickness of the airwaves.

    Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that this style of programming is just scripted nonsense. Sadly these shows exist because there are enough cretins out there who will find this rot entertaining and actually believe its contents to be authentic.

    And by the way, wasn’t Suze Orman convicted of fraud about a decade ago? Some “role model.”

  • 15 Cory
    · Dec 12, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    The Original UK version had actual scientists and doctors and writers as teachers and then they were given proper lab and educational equipment.
    Dream school US and the original UK version were both great, the only reality tv show that was any good. The reason they didnt use teachers is because the entire education system is a failure and Dream school showed the alternative (expert hands on teaching from people in the field, example is Oliver Stone teaching about his ReEAL LIFE war experience and adult political views). If you guys really support teachers then prove it, change the system and dont complain when someone tries to.