Monday, June 13, 2011

Film Favorites - Renaissance Man

Renaissance Man -  
a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.
Jack of all trades.
Master of None.

Bill Rago is a divorced advertising executive down on his luck. When he loses his job in Detroit, the unemployment agency finds him a temporary job; teaching in the U.S. Army training base, Fort McClane.

Initially unenthusiastic about this assignment, Rago finds that he has only six weeks to teach the Double D’s, a group of "squeakers", who are especially low achievers, the basics of comprehension and use of English language. Most of the soldiers are only semi-literate and equally unenthusiastic.

Unable to connect with his pupils and desperate to spark their interest, Rago quotes from his favorite play, Hamlet by  William Shakespeare, which they have never heard of. A small initial spark of interest is generated.

Rago further introduces them to Henry V, which generates further interest. Despite the disapproval of their hard-as-nails Drill Sergeant Cass, and the loss of one of the trainees, who is revealed as a drug dealer hiding

under an assumed identity, he sets them an end-of-term examination, which his Captain friend doesn't expect them to pass, adding that if they fail, they will be discharged. However, they succeed.

The climax comes as one of the soldiers proudly gives Cass the St. Crispin’s Day Speech by King Henry V while in full combat gear in the middle of the rain during a night exercise. Rago realizes that he has finally achieved success.

Rago also does some investigation, as a result of which one of the soldiers is awarded the medal his father was to have been given posthumously, after he was killed on duty in Vietnam.

As the proud soldiers march at their passing-out parade, Rago signs on for a further period of teaching soldiers-in-training.

This is a great movie to generate the discussion of everyone can learn given the proper environment to learn. That learning takes place in a multitude of methods.  Rago uses several methodologies throughout the movie to generate interest and comprehension amongst the Double D’s including: character reading of the play, acting out the play, firing squad Q &A.  The “squeakers” surprise Rago with a rap to demonstrate their understanding of the play.  The lessons culminate with the students seeing the play and then taking and passing an “optional” final exam.

Invariably though it is Bill Rago, "The Teacher", who learns the most.  This is not lost on my students as they understand that learning is a two way street.  You only get out, what you are willing to put in.  


Anonymous said...

This is an outstanding film for the oldr student for motivational purposes. I've seen it many times and always love the parts that Bill is teaching Shakespeare and most definately when the students respond. It is a film that could very well produce good discussions and meaningful understanding that is is not only the teacher who teaches and the students learn, it can show that students can be the educator and the teacher the student.

BRIAN said...

One of the questions I ask students to respond to is which character learns the most throughout the process. The majority of students think that Mr. Rago learns the most.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments on methodologies, but would like to make one small correction. Rago takes the Double Ds to see Henry V. Later, Benitez recites the "band of brothers" monologue to the sergeant at dawn training.