So this is pretty hypothetical, as you can glean from the title.
I took my five year old daughter to see Monsters University the other day. This is a prequel to Pixar’s Monsters Inc., one of the best movies ever made, animated or not. I’m generally a sucker for anything Pixar, with the exception of the highly overrated ‘Finding Nemo.’
A few days before seeing the movie, I was intrigued by a tweet I read about how Rick Hess, the generally corporate-reform leaning blogger for Ed Week, had written a review about this movie for his latest blog. As I didn’t want the movie to be ‘spoiled’ (spoiler alert — this entry I’m writing will give away the whole move) I didn’t read it before seeing the movie.
As the movie unfolded, I kept thinking about how Hess might weave his review into something to support the corporate reform movement. I thought I had figured it out and was disappointed when I got home and read his actual review, which can be found here. I was completely prepared to rebut what I assumed his analysis would be, so I’ve decided to write it anyway, despite the fact that I’m not really arguing with anyone anymore.
What I thought Hess was going to say was that the movie demonstrates the dichotomy between inputs and outcomes. Mike Wazowski (the little greed one-eyed monster voiced by Billy Crystal) does everything he needs to to become an expert scarer. He has read all the books and knows all the theory. But despite all these ‘inputs,’ when it comes to ‘outcomes’ — actually being able to scare kids — he is completely ‘ineffective.’ I thought Hess would argue that this is like the teacher who seems to do everything right, even gets good principal evaluations, yet whose kids are not learning by an easily quantified measure, standardized test scores. And unlike a lot of underdog movies, Wazowski never does become an ‘effective’ scarer. Instead he becomes the ‘brains’ and coach of his friend, Sully, who has the natural ability, but did not have a handle on the theory.
To my imaginary Hess, I would remind him that the crew of misfits at the OK fraternity were also seemingly ‘ineffective’ before being coached. Most teachers, just like most monsters, can be supported to become ‘effective.’ The number of hopeless cases, like Wazowski, is very very low.
Another irony is that Monsters University expels the duo of Wazowski and Sully because they are discipline problems, not unlike many charter schools do. Fortunately for Wazowski and Sully, they find an alternate route to becoming a scare team, but getting unfairly expelled for not conforming is something that would have demoralized most monsters and possibly prevented them from living their dreams.
Finally, as Monsters University was not able to get Wazowski to ‘pass’ the big test, does this mean that they need to get shut down or turned over to a charter operator — maybe even a parent trigger? No, schools, whether they are the kind we have here in the human world or the kind in the monster world are somewhat limited by the out of school factors, and this movie is a nice illustration of that. Wazowski does find an outlet for his talents, which are many, and this could be a parallel to vocational schools or other less ‘academic’ ways for students to find something to excel at.
As far as the quality of the movie goes, I’d still give it three stars where the original one would be four stars. It lacked the depth of the original but as far as a prequel goes, it is still one of the better ones. As far as sequels go, I don’t think it is very possible to beat Toy Story 3, but this is still a very worthwhile film.