The Good News Behind Larry Crowne: Education


One viewer put it this way: “Went to the movies last night and saw Larry Crowne. We thought it was good. No violence, no sex, no foul language. Amazing.” Not everyone is raving, however. USA Today’s Claudia Puig called it “both a dated, lackluster comedy and a genial old-fashioned romance,” and gave it 2-1/2 stars, but then AP movie critic Christy Lemire called it “corny and contrived,” and handed it only 1-1/2.

After all… Putting a college professor (Julia Roberts/Mercedes Tainot) in the arms of a divorced and downsized high school grad (Tom Hanks/Larry) is a stretch. Ditto for Larry’s unlikely friendship with hip and pretty moped-riding Gugu Mbatha-Raw/Talia, who all but adopts him.

But put that all aside, as the take-away from Larry Crowne is not the budding relationship between student and former professor, but schooling and the doors it can open.

That’s because Larry, at the top of his game at a Target/Wal-Mart-like retailer, gets fired, told that his lack of higher education forever limits his prospects for moving up at U-Mart. That explains why he’s never been promoted in the past, and out he goes.

And, as if that’s not enough, recently divorced, Larry’s house is now not worth what he owes on it. Talk about being down on your luck. As Hanks explained it, “I wanted to play a guy who has the rug pulled out from under him.” And does he ever.

But then neighbor Cedric the Entertainer/Lamar, who just happens to hold a yard sale every day, hands Larry a college catalogue and says, “Get some knowledge and you’ll be fine.”

Signing up for three courses, Larry is now a part-time college student, and that changes everything. It’s not that he ultimately gets the girl, it’s that he gets a new life by heading back to school. That’s the movie’s underpinning-and it’s an important one.

Just take a look at The Stronger Nation through Higher Education report’s findings: 35.2% of Pennsylvania’s population holds only a high school diploma, with another 9.1% who never graduated. Compare that with just 8.6% who hold a Bachelor’s degree.

Put all that together with the recent Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce finding that 57% of Pennsylvania’s jobs will require postsecondary education by 2018. Actually, of the anticipated 1.8 million jobs that open up between now and 2018, one million of them will require more than just a high school diploma. Larry Crowne gets that now.

Bottom line: if you’re a struggling high school grad, his story should resonate with you, focusing as it does on the opportunities afforded by back-to-school skill building to make it in today’s challenging job market.

Need a place to start? Larry headed to East Valley Community College. You simply can’t go wrong if you follow his lead and head to a community college near you for education at a reasonable price.

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