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EDITORIAL: Movie-day at the schools? Why?

Posted by jahanzaibmemon on January 3, 2008

Are schools enabling today’s reading-averse generation?

THE SHOWING OF R-rated movies in the Beloit School District prompted the school board to prohibit the practice, presumably over material that might be considered inappropriate by some students and parents.

In turn, that prohibition sparked objections from some teachers that the school board was micro-managing their classrooms. The chairman of the high school’s social studies department said, “I think probably our greatest disappointment was there was no dialogue with any of us from the board when they started to discuss this.”

Meanwhile, some students circulated a petition in opposition to the board policy.
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THE SCHOOLS can still show G- and PG-rated movies and, as board policy committee chair Pam Charles stated, “With a little imagination the teacher can come up with movies not rated R.”

Probably so.

But this question occurs to us: Why show Hollywood movies at all?

An argument could be made if the movies were being shown in a film class for study as an art form. But, otherwise, what’s the point?

Even when the movies deal with historical subject matter, Hollywood usually takes so many liberties the true history is lost. It’s make-believe. Entertainment. Just sound and fury.

Academically, even the most historically-oriented films rarely stand up to factual review.

BESIDES, WE WOULD lay odds many parents have heard a recurring theme from their children. When it’s “movie day,” that’s basically a day off. For the pupils. For the teachers. Sure, there may be follow-up discussions, but for most of the kids it’s a pretty easy way to coast.

Kids like watching movies. And when the kids like it, there’s usually a reason.

Mind you, we’re not saying audio-visual aids in the classroom are all bad. We’re just questioning Hollywood-ized make-believe, the same things people go to video stores to rent.

There are fine documentaries and the kind of material found on, for example, the History Channel or the National Geographic channel. These, too, can be entertaining. More importantly, though, they are real and not the hyped-up Hollywood version of the facts.

Some documentaries may be even more raw than Hollywood films, and would require good judgment. Still, if students are to be exposed to difficult facts, isn’t it better if they are real facts?

AT THE RISK of seeming self-serving – we are in the reading business, after all – we also would hope the schools try to avoid further enabling this reading-challenged generation. Just because some students’ lives are dominated by television, video games and computer screens is no excuse for educators failing to insist these kids grasp the wonders of learning through the printed word.

Educators know that, at best, students receive a thin layer of knowledge at school. The real objective of education is to create the spark of learning in a child. Deep knowledge comes from further study and reading. Youngsters may learn that Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and bought the Louisiana Territory from France as the nation’s third president. But to know Jefferson, and understand the philosophical underpinnings he helped build into America’s story, students must read. One of the most important goals of education should be to create life-long reading habits for students.

Do Hollywood movies fit in that plan? Let’s say, we are not convinced.

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