What I learned from “The Breakfast Club”

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I can hardly believe that it has been THIRTY YEARS since The Breakfast Club was released. This amazing story about a group of 5 high school students serving Saturday detention continues to stand the test of time and is beloved by countless students that have graduated in 4 different decades. The lessons that movie taught in 1985 are as applicable today as ever. When I was teaching middle school, I begged my principal to let our 8th graders see it before they left for high school and felt it should be required viewing for all students entering high school. Alas since it is rated R, I was never granted permission. Fortunately it is often on TV and with very little being edited out. There’s so much to learn from this classic, but here are my top 5:

5) Everyone gets punished sometime – We ALL make mistakes. It happens. Sometimes we are tremendously stupid, at other times we get caught trying to cut corners, and in some cases we get punished for honest mistakes. Kids need to learn that we accept responsibility for what we’ve done, we serve our punishments, and we move on. We hate those times, but often it is our mistakes and the consequences that result that teach us the most.

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4) John Hughes was a GENIUS – Every once in a while, someone comes along that makes a huge impact on the world. John Hughes was one of those people. Look at this PARTIAL list of accomplishments: Home Alone, Uncle Buck, Christmas Vacation, 16 Candles, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Great Outdoors, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Pretty in Pink, Vacation, and Mr. Mom. Any ONE of those would have been something to be proud of during a career. Tragically, like many others, he was gone too soon. In 2009 he passed away at the age of 59.

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3) All we need to do is make an effort – There is so much in this world that we do not know…and the sad part is that it is by our own choice. We see people at school, at work, and in our neighborhoods yet do not talk to them. We see restaurants, parks, stores, and museums but never go inside. We hear about books, movies, and music groups but never check them out. We hear about places around town, around the country, and around the world, but we never go there. So many of us lead lives that fit within a small circle without ever actually growing, and yet no one is to blame except us. If we were to talk to someone we don’t know, visit some place we’ve never been, or experienced something new, who knows how our lives might grow?

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2) Rather than elevate ourselves we tear down others –  Almost every character in the movie does this at some point and I WISH I could say that this is something only kids do, but that would be either shortsighted or an outright lie. Think about the people in your own life….family, friends, coworkers, and so on. Think about the things they say about others, whether to their face or when they aren’t around. How many of them are negative? Why do we so often talk about how BAD someone looks instead of how good we look? Why we do talk about the MISTAKES people make instead of the accomplishments we made? Is it just to take attention off of ourselves? If that’s the case, wouldn’t we be better off working at making improvements so that we COULD be happy enough with ourselves that we don’t need to attack others?

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and 1) We label everything and everyone –  This is something else that I wish I could say was exclusive to kids. Sadly it’s not and the worst part is that it is because they learn it from adults. Everyone in our society gets labeled. I could list THOUSANDS…but think about this short list and how many times you’ve heard them used as a label for someone and not just an adjective to describe them: conservative, unemployed, religious, gay, liberal, addict, rich, and more. And of course we can’t forget princess, brain, athlete, criminal, and basket case. Do images come to mind when you read those? Yeah…unfortunately they do for me too. That’s a product of how prevalent the use of labels is in our world today. Imagine how many more people we will get to know and welcome into our lives if we refuse to accept labels the world has given.

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