Monday, September 25, 2006

popcorn book?

A story in the local paper today made me wonder about the validity of using movies in area high schools to illustrate ideas and concepts common to core subjects. My initial reaction was mild annoyance that books weren't used for this and that still goes; but to be fair I have no idea of the percentage Hollywood takes up in area classrooms relative to Shakespeare, assigned Canadian history texts and the old standby; William Golding's Lord of the Flies.
Books are still the big dog of the curriculum and that should be a given but the article quotes educators that I quite like and respect. If teachers believe a little celluloid may be enough to get the kid into the boat, as it were, then perhaps he'll learn to paddle later on.
I have little doubt that the emails to the Record from the perpetually outraged are already on the way moaning that so and so's taxes go to pay for a teacher to watch movies or other such tripe, but that misses the point.
A teacher who has tried to reach "students who aren't academically inclined and dislike reading"
could hardly be faulted for trying something, anything to get some ideas in a lesson plan to stick.
My worry is that some students who aren't strong enough readers will view film as a full scale substitute.
Books are about so much more than telling a story and even if that weren't so, I'm not sure movies can even do that coherently anymore. Okay, maybe it's just that the Jackass remake is far and away number one right now, but I'm only just old enough to remember the Seventies when American movie making could support a thriving critical culture and still sell popcorn.
Of course there are exceptions and it's not my place to argue for any movie over any other movie, but discretion around the use of film in the classroom combined with some (much) needed fresh air in the high school reading lists would mean no one ever again be stuck in a building with poor air flow in June staring at the train wreck that is Mel Gibson.
Books are just better teaching tools than film, the fact that "kids are hooked into the electronic media far more than we ever were" is entirely true, but by widening the book lists a bit, making room for some of the more out there small presses, graphic novels and genre stuff, educators could be in a much stronger position to foster a more media smart classroom.

Posted by Dave

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