Synopsis by Mark Deming
Jon Voight stars in this story, based on fact, about a teacher determined to make a difference in the lives of his students. In the late 1960s, Pat Conroy (Jon Voight) is given a teaching position on a small island off the coast of South Carolina. Conroy discovers that the school is little more than a shack and his students are functionally illiterate, can't count, and don't even know what country they're in. (They also mispronounce his name as "Conrack," a name that sticks.) The school's principal, Mrs. Scott (Madge Sinclair), has taught the students to believe that they're lazy and stupid, and the result is a group of kids who've been ignored and have no useful skills. Conroy responds by throwing out the rule book and teaching lessons that will be useful in their daily lives. The students respond eagerly as Conroy plays classical music, shows them movies, teaches them to swim, and explains the importance of brushing their teeth. However, many local leaders are unhappy with Conroy and his methods, while Conroy is not afraid to say that institutional racism is largely to blame for the neglect heaped on the students. The real Pat Conroy, whose book The Water is Wide was the basis for this picture, later became a respected novelist; his fiction includes The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, both later made into films.
against-the-system, Black [race], child, cross-cultural-relations, culture-clash, education, poverty, student, teacher