115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Skirt Day and The Class: Two Cinematic Views of Student-Teacher Dynamics in Parisian Multicultural Ghetto Schools

Alfred G. Fralin, Jr., Washington & Lee University

A clip-based comparison of two acclaimed French films, Skirt Day (2008) and The Class (2009) underscores the heroic struggle of many teachers to overcome not only students’ aversion for learning but also the absence of administrative support for their struggle which leaves women teachers powerless to combat certain students’ culturally instilled scorn for them.


Multi-dimensional and multi-purposed, this study revolves around two rather recent movies depicting challenging pedagogical conditions or situations that increasingly stifle good teachers and teaching in general. No longer the innocent pranks of school children portrayed in plays such as Pagnol’s Topaze, the unruly, often hostile behavior of today’s high-rise-ghetto adolescents hardly ceased with the riots in Parisian suburbs of the 1980s . Instead, the resentment reflected by such behavior has grown and seethes beneath its turbulent surface, obviously eager to erupt again at the smallest provocation. The result of brutal demographic shifts and social marginalization, as well as threats to established society, deadly revolts or attacks in the name of justice, if not of God or iconic heroes, such resentment is poisoning more and more classrooms and making too many teachers miserable as evidenced by the burgeoning number of French ghetto films. Lending themselves so easily to discussion of sources of problems revealed and ways of dealing with them, such films are probably more pedagogically beneficial to teachers and their administrators than to anyone else. Our study seeks to dwell not on such obvious benefits but on the two films’ artistry and content and the manner in which, once viewed outside class, they may be exploited in class, be it French-oriented or other, for maximal impact on students. Since Skirt Day posits such a poignant treatment of woman’s empowerment if not disempowerment in the ghetto school environment, this subject constitutes a major point of consideration.