At a time when the authenticity of Selma and American Sniper are being debated thoroughly, it’s hard to imagine any movie that could be good enough to consider for a grade school curriculum. Not as something a lone teacher chooses to show students (the best example of my experience I can recall is seeing Witness in a class while learning about the Amish) but as mandatory viewing for all students. Maybe a documentary could work, right? A lot of them even depend on sales of copies intended for educational showings. Well, even documentaries are regularly scrutinized for not being balanced and truthful enough – as they should be, because docs aren’t necessarily supposed to be all facts and figures without an artistic perspective.
One nonfiction film in particular that is far from embraced and accepted as educational material is Dinesh D’Souza’s America: Imagine a World Without Her. Yet according to The Washington Post, there’s a chance a condensed cut of the doc could serve as a teaching tool in Florida schools to counter all the “lies” Senator Alan Hays claims kids are currently learning there. He introduced a “Patriotic Film Screening” bill in November that would make it mandatory for 8th and 11th graders. Never mind the politics of the film. As I addressed in my review, it’s a bad doc regardless of its right-wing interests and in spite of starting out with good intentions. What I wonder is if movies should be utilized alongside textbooks anyway.
Selma, which is getting heat from defenders of LBJ’s honor, has been screened for students across America this month for free, but not as something required. In fact, some educators have denied requests for field trips based on the film’s content, citing its R-rated language as being inappropriate rather than its historical accuracy. 12 Years a Slave, meanwhile, was made mandatory viewing in high schools throughout the US last year. And interestingly enough, it’s the shaming of our country’s past for the legalization of slavery and other similar embarrassments that America aims to correct and spin for a more positive, proud, patriotic history lesson. D’Souza and his supporters must see their side being suited enough for schools if that Best Picture-winning drama is.
I’m not sure of any other movies that are required for all students to watch, but if you’re interested in seeing what kinds of non-mandatory movies are licensed for screenings in American public schools, the website for the company Movie Licensing USA (which exclusively handles such licensing) is pretty neat. They even have a list of most popular titles, currently topped by Frozen, The Lego Movie and Despicable Me 2, as well as suggested events for movie programming. They also have America available, in the event that the Florida bill isn’t passed and teachers want to show it anyway.
Do you think any movies should be mandatory viewing for students, and if so which ones?