The unconscious is the part of the thoughts of which an individual is not cognizant of. Freud stated the unconscious exposes the true emotions and opinions of the person (Robbins, 2006, p. 170). There are an assortment of psychoanalytic methods utilized to contact and comprehend the unconscious, alternating from approaches like hypnosis, dream analysis, and free association. Dreams help an individual navigate through the unconscious; according to Freud, they are the main means to the unconscious.
Dreams are generated from dormant and apparent content. Whereas dormant content is the fundamental significance of a dream that may not be recalled when a person awakens, evident content is the content a person does remember from awakening which can then be examined by a psychoanalytic psychologist. Tanya's dormant feelings of her late husband could have manifested in actions against her daughter. The same could be said of Akeelah. She could have forged her mother's signature, but instead she forged her father's.
Why would a child forge the signature of a deceased individual? Children often hide their feelings over loss deep within their subconscious. These feelings, much like that of Tanya's, sometimes shows up in impulsive actions. The impulsive action was the forged signature. It could also be seen when Akeelah talks to Dr. Larabee. The off putting response to Dr. Larabee may be hiding some feelings of resentment for having lost her father.
Both mother and daughter were deeply affected by the loss of the father/husband. His death generated depression in the mother and a loss of identity in the daughter. Their actions, sparked by the suppressed unconscious feelings, led to the consequences seen in the film. It led to Tanya barring Akeelah from participating and from Akeelah forging her father's signature.
Social Cognitive (Social Learning) Theory:
Albert Bandura proposed people could learn new behaviors from observing other people. Observational learning explains a lot of the behaviors children, especially, learn from watching others, this theory can easily be recognized within the film. One clear example is the jump rope exercise Akeelah learns from Dr. Larabee. She uses what she saw and learned from Dr. Larabee to improve her performance at the spelling bees. It worked so well, that even after Dr. Larabee stopped instructing her, she was still able to remember and utilize the technique.
There are three essential ideas at the core of social learning theory. First is the concept of people learning through observation as seen through Akeelah and her use of the jump rope? Then is the notion that interior intellectual states are a necessary part of this progression (Hutchison, 2013, p. 129). Lastly, social learning theory distinguishes that just because someone learned something, it does not signify a result in a change in comportment. Akeelah was still Akeelah after she learned new methods of studying from Dr. Larabee. Regardless of what she learned, she still behaved the same.
When observing Akeelah and her family within the film, one recognizes the struggles as well of their existence as black people in a white society. People within the movie, like Dylan's father, had negative perceptions of black people, insinuating they are uneducated and unlearned. This becomes an important aspect to identify as a social worker as Applegate explains:
Recognizing that culture is part of what Hartmann called the 'average expectable environment," these authors point out the dangers of rectifying such concepts as differentiation, separation, individuation, and autonomy and applying them concretely to people whose cultural and value orientations different from that of the white, Western middle class (Applegate, 1990, p. 86).
Akeelah had to deal with a lot of things that anyone irrespective of race deals with. However, because she is black or African America, she also has to deal with the negative stigma attached. This bring the social learning theory into another complicated state as she observes how people react to her as well as observing things she learns.
Intrinsic reinforcement, often encouraged through pride and satisfaction may get stifled in the onset of negative reactions from people around her brought on by her race and their perceptions of her race. Intrinsic reinforcement acts as the reward part of the learning (Pate, 1978, p. 505), by showing the benefits. Taking a second look at how Akeelah reacted to her first win and how she later learned from her family, friends, and especially Dr. Larabee, the theory helps to navigate the process of her growth through her social interactions.
The three basic models of observational learning which help a person pick up something from an individual are as follows: a live model, meaning a person showing or acting out a comportment, verbal instructional model, (the one Dr. Larabee used) consisting of explanations and clarifications of a behavior, and a symbolic model, involving tangible or imaginary characters demonstrating behaviors in various forms of media like TV or internet (Witt, 2008, p. 3). These models permit the beginning of the modeling process. The modelling process is: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. Akeelah was motivated from learning from Dr. Larabee to continue her jump rope studying because she remembered more words. Her success in her competitions enabled her to continue use of the technique.
Empowerment theory is the practice by which individuals, including groups accomplish influence, entrance to numerous resources and can govern their own lives. Empowerment supports individuals in gaining the capability to achieve their maximum individual and communal objectives and ambitions. "Empowerment is one of the mainstream tools of social work practice, though in the 1950s and 1960s it was overshadowed by the psychotherapeutic approach. During the civil rights movement in America in the 1970s, empowerment was revived by radical social workers" (Guo & Tsui, 2010, p. 235). Empowerment theory can work well into the case study of Akeelah as the spelling bees helped her become empowered and confident in her abilities.
Akeelah before the start of the spelling bees was an intelligent child who did not apply herself because she did not want to face possible ridicule. But after she gained success and advanced to the national spelling bee, became a symbol and source of pride for her community and her family, even with her mother towards the end, supporting her daughter's endeavors. Akeelah's win in the national spelling bee lay the ground work for her future in academics. It instilled in her the motivation to succeed and to be more than what she thought she could be. As Hur describes in his study, "The components of the model are personally meaningful and power-oriented goals, self-efficacy, knowledge, competence, action, and impact. Individuals move through the process with respect to particular goals, doubling back repeatedly as experience promotes reflection" (Hur, 2006, p. 523) experiences herald introspection. Akeelah can look back on her successes and the determination she had to continue and feel a sense of empowerment from it.
Throughout the story Akeelah gradually becomes more empowered from her successes. It is first seen when she decides to take on the school's spelling bee. Her teacher and principle both compelled her to join and that gave her a sense of empowerment and confidence to participate. That win translated to asking for coaching lessons from Dr. Larabee. Although it was met with rejection, she continued her pursuit and with the assistance of her sister, made it to the regional spelling bee.
Eventually she met Javier and Dylan who both motivated her to not just pursue winning, but also care for friends as she purposely misspelled a word to give Dylan a chance for first place. The most compelling examples of empowerment was when she chose to go against her mother's wishes and participate in the spelling bee by forging her late father's signature. Through the various actions by Akeelah, one can see the spelling bees were a source of confidence and empowerment for Akeelah, changing her old negative behaviors in favor of positive ones and ultimately allowing her to control her own life. Empowerment theory allows for the person to choose his/her own destiny by an organization, a group of people, an individual, choosing to believe and take sincere interest in an individual.
Dr. Larabee, Kiana, the school, even Akeelah's mother, they all played a role in her empowerment as they all, through some point in the story took an interest in helping Akeelah achieve her goals. Although at times she was met with difficult generated by some of these people, for instance Dr. Larabee's initial refusal, it was because of these people aiding Akeelah that her sense of self and confidence emerged. People often forget the importance of their actions and behavior on someone. Empowerment theory shows the rewards and benefits from helping and taking interest in another.
Critique of Theories
Family Systems: Family systems theory although has its validating points such as the parts of personality transferred to other family members like Tanya to Akeelah, it has its weaknesses. For one, Akeelah formed an identity outside of her family. Although her family helped her, especially…