I wrote this in 2012 and stand by every word:
A survey of popular culture indicates that attitudes about compulsory public education have drastically devolved. Children have always hated school, but the Our Gang kids only “played hooky” from class, they didn’t shoot it up. The “juvies” in Blackboard Jungle (1955) just smash up some classical-music records* and manhandle a teacher (who probably liked it).
The sea change dates back to—you’ll never guess—1968, when Lindsay Anderson’s film …if climaxed with an armed student rebellion at an English public school.
A multitude of Tom Brown-turns-John Brown fiction pieces followed. “School’s been blown to pieces,” Alice Cooper growled triumphantly in 1972. Then came Massacre at Central High (1976), Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), and the ingenious satire Heathers (1988). School in countless American films is depicted as a conformist concentration camp with a marching band.
Today, two multi-million-dollar entertainment franchises, Twilight and The Hunger Games, revolve around teens fighting each other to the death—but God forbid gun-phobic, video-game-banning suburban moms question their own reading habits, right?
A belated correction:
Blackboard Jungle was on a while back, and the records are jazz, not classical.
In fact, when a well-meaning teacher tells Glenn Ford about his collection of rare and in some cases irreplaceable jazz records, which it has taken him a lifetime to accumulate, and which he is absolutely certain will be a big hit with those juvvie kids when he brings them to school…
I had to change the channel at that point.
On the list of “scariest scenes in non-horror movies,” surely that is right up there…