In Dangerous Minds, identify four theories or perspectives displayed.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One sociological theory displayed is evident in how Lou Anne embraces the social exchange theory.  This theory posits the idea that human interaction is predicated upon how much reward a particular interaction can be gained.  When Lou Anne enters her classroom, it is clear that her "posse don't do homework."  She has to embrace the social exchange theory in working with her students.  Self- defense teachings, the willingness to use karate, as well as the use of candy bars and the trip to the amusement park are all examples of the social exchange theory in action. As Lou Anne gains their trust and is able to say, "In my classroom, poetry is its own reward," the social exchange theory is embodied in a more abstract manner.  Lou Anne makes the case to her students that if they demonstrate habits of academic success, they be rewarded with measurable gains.    She makes this case in both tangible and intangible terms, defining the elements of the social exchange theory.

In the mentoring of Callie Roberts, Lou Anne demonstrates the feminist social theory.  She is able to bond with Callie as a woman.  In the interaction from woman to woman, feminism as a social theory is embraced.  This theory posits that there are conditions that bind and connect all women to one another, suggesting that solidarity between women is a real construct.  In her appeals to Callie, Lou Anne is knowledgeable that she might be able to reach her as a woman and not merely as a teacher or as an instrument of the system.  The relationship that develops between both women can be fostered because of a feminist idea that suggests a condition in which women are able to understand one another because of conditions that impact them as women.

The conflict theory of Karl Marx is evidenced in the school's setting.  Lou Anne does not teach in Beverly Hills or Palo Alto.  She is not teaching in an economically advanced community. She is teaching in an economically challenged area outside of Los Angeles.  It becomes clear that she is seeking to empower students who lack such autonomy in the world around them.  When she challenges their assertion with the idea that "There are no victims in this classroom," it is an affirmation of the Marxist conflict theory that seeks to empower those who lack a sense of control and voice.  Emilio's narrative of the harsh street life is a reflection of the conflict theory that Lou Anne advocates in her advocacy for him.  As Lou Anne is asking her students to critically examine the world and their place in it, she is engaging in theory of social phenomenology.  In this setting, society is a social construct.  The same construction that labels Lou Anne as "whitebread" and statements such as "You that white bread b*** messing up my babies' minds!" are examples of social phenomenology because they force reexamination of social constructs.  What defines being "white" and "messing up" the minds of children are a part of this process.  Lou Anne teaches her students and experiences the implications of social phenomenological theory throughout the film.