CB’s Review: “The Class (Entre Les Mur)”: Who is Teaching Who?

If you ever wanted to understand why teaching puberty-ridden, curious and often rebellious high school kids is a tough job, just watch the French film, The Class (Entre Les Murs). This movie dives into the deep end of the complexities of teaching a multi-ethnic, socioeconomic diverse class in the new immigrant rich France.

The Class (2008) takes place inside the narrow confines of the high school campus, which may sound limiting, but it was a careful choice made by director Laurent Cantet.  The docudrama is based on a book and screenplay written by François Bégaudeau, the author and teacher who plays himself in the movie. It is a somewhat loose day-in-the-life story of his struggles to teach a diverse class of challenging students.

Most viewers realize the teachers are in for a rough time from the very first scene. Smartly foreshadowing the year to come, a group of teachers meet to prepare for the incoming students. The team shares its words of encouragement and advice, especially for the rookies. A retiring teacher said “[He’d] like to wish the new arrivals plenty of courage” because he knew they would need it.

The complexity of courage and respect are played out in the film’s French classroom and in “real-world” classrooms internationally. François, and the other teachers, wear a shield of courage each day to face the brutal, disruptive and demanding students. Like the new France, François’ class had students of all nationalities – Moroccan, Mali, Chinese as well as other African and Middle Eastern nations. The Class proves that teachers also needed respect to understand the daily battles their first and second-generation immigrant students encountered in their tough French neighborhoods. These constant clashes between teacher and student for understanding left the audience with mixed sympathies.

This push-pull tension around respect in the classroom was played out perfectly as the movie went from scene to scene. Several students, like Khoumba, a sharp-tongued, moody African girl, were quick to demand respect from their snappy and exasperated teacher. In one power play, she is scolded by François for her insolence in class after refusing to read aloud. In a tug-of-war after class discussion, François demands a sincere apology from her. Feeling a lack of respect shown, she offers a half-hearted apology and runs off to join her friends who waited and snickered in the hallway. Seeking to provide balance to the commentary on respect, the film shows another side of Khoumba, as a sensitive, emotional teenaged girl. In a well-written note to François, she explains how she feels disrespected by him.


CB Reviews: “Immigrants and Boomers”: An Enlightened View of Immigration & Demographics


The current state of America’s priorities and challenges can be summed up by looking at one place: the negotiations surrounding the 2009 Obama Economic Stimulus package. This plan, totaling nearly $790 Billion, aims to help revive the struggling economy, while laying a heavy financial burden on future generations to pay for. Democrats and Republicans battled over which financial expenditures in the areas of education, technology, health care, energy and infrastructure, will likely yield the greatest number of jobs, fix the economy and secure America’s future.

These competing priorities are at the heart of the Dowell Myers’s book, “Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for the Future of America.” In this treatise, Myers argues that a new intergenerational contract needs to be created between retiring Baby Boomers and newly arrived immigrants to solve our economic and demographic challenges. Myers describes it as a “social contract of intergenerational support,” which is “based in intergenerational transfers of resources through the mediums of taxation and social expenditure.”

Quite simply, Myers proposes a more enlightened view of immigrant arrivals and the challenges that it presents to America. Instead of thinking of immigrants in what he describes as a “Peter Pan” way, whereby they remain stuck in an infancy stage of assimilation, he challenges the voting public to consider a picture of immigrants who have evolved, developed and contribute greatly to society. It is these immigrants (in addition to the native born) that will become the taxpayers of the future who will provide the financial support to the elderly Baby Boomers. In essence, the immigrants of today will pay for the Social Security, pensions and health care of aging Boomers. Subsequently, it is in our shared best interest to invest in education and assist in the integration and assimilation of our foreign born entrants.


Listen to Annenberg Radio News on Tuesdays (Spoiler: I’m the host)


I’m super excited about my latest gig. I am the host of Annenberg Radio News on Tuesdays. Our radio show airs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 – 4:20 p.m (PST). In addition to reading scripts, I also get to conduct a host interview where I speak with someone relevant to the show’s topic. Last Tuesday, I spoke with Professor David Hernández of UCLA‘s Cezar E. Chavez’ Chicana and Chicano Studies Department regarding illegal immigration deportation quotas. The show concentrates on local stories mostly. Tuesday’s show had stories on immigration, the Mayor’s policies and parks in South Los Angeles.

Please feel free to listen to my very first radio show (click here), in which I made very few errors. Woo hoo.. even though I’m glad it was the test show. (We go live this Tuesday!) My goal.. zero errors (although I’ve now noticed how often NPR hosts make mistakes). To err is human, right?! Just don’t laugh.

Stay tuned for my upcoming show. You can hear it on Tuesday at 4 p.m. (PST) on the radio at KCRS 1560 AM. And for those of you outside of Los Angeles, you can click on the Annenberg Radio News site, where the show will stream live. The shows are also archived on the web site too.


The Caramel Bella

CB’s Review: “The Devil’s Highway”: A Hellish Journey


Do you know what it’s like to be so excited about a story that you run to tell everyone you know about it? And in your excitement, you may repeat yourself a lot. Or you may tend to over-explain something that may be relatively obvious to others. Or perhaps, the story is so emotionally titillating that you relay it a bit out of order and in an incoherent manner at times. Or even worse, can you remember being so thrilled by your story that you even give away the ending first? Luis Alberto Urrea makes all of these mistakes in his zest to tell the story of the Yuma 14, the Mexican immigrants, who died in 2001 while attempting to cross the brutal Arizona desert in The Devil’s Highway.

Although delivered in a confusing and long-winded manner, author Urrea spends 220 pages describing the complex illegal immigration and border situation between the United States and Mexico through the story of the Wellton 26 (also known as the Yuma 14). Seeking to explain the multilayered, multifaceted elements of illegal immigration, Urrea, a reporter, presents a multitude of viewpoints and characters to reflect the complexity of the issue. From Border Patrol accounts to the walkers who braved the desert to the coyotes and guides who smuggled them across the border, Urrea haphazardly presents their stories, which are often left incomplete.

His kaleidoscope storytelling begs the reader to organize and assemble the facts and information on his or her own into a comprehensible and moving tale of the 14 economic migrants who died during their walk across the “Camino del Diablo” and the 12 others who narrowly escaped death.

Somewhere in Urrea’s attempt to provide a full picture of the tragedy of the Mexican immigrants who got lost in the Southwestern desert, he forgot that his readers understand the very meaning of the word “desert” – hot areas that receive very little precipitation. He repeatedly describes, and often over-describes, the Arizona desert and its harsh conditions. The only thing left for him to do was to provide additional maps throughout the book to correspond with the number of descriptions of the terrain. And yes, that would be overdoing it.




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my luvs

My Maltese puppy; lazy Sunday mornings; a day at the Beach; Yoga; breakfast anytime of the day; my gurls (and you know who you are); my family (I’m a daddy’s girl); making new friends; Los Angeles & Washington, DC; ocean views; Anguilla; healthy foods that don’t taste healthy; politics; "greenie" things; meditating; natural curls and movies.

Things that work my nerves

Bad drivers, cranky and moody people, lack of sleep, crime, filth

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.



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