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Monday, June 1, 2015

What I learned from the movies about education


I have always liked to use movie clips in my talks, since the movies get it about education. My favorite was always Ferris Bueller's Day Off, especially the scene where the teacher drones on about economics and everyone is asleep or simply ignoring him. But, yesterday I found two new ones (well neither are new) that I thought I would share with my readers. 

The first is from a 2003 movie, Cold Mountain. The scene here is where Ada, a young woman with fine schooling is being helped by Ruby, a young woman with no schooling but much practical knowledge for difficult times. (The movie takes place in the South in the US Civil War about 1864)

Ruby: What’s this wood?

Ada: - I don't know, - In,

Ruby: - I don't know, - Pine, - Locust? - Pine, Where's north?

Ada: North? Uh,,,

Ruby: Name me three herbs that grow wild on this farm,

Ada: I can't, I can't, all right?

Ada: I can talk about farming in Latin,

Ada: I can,,, I can read French,

Ada: I know how to lace up a corset, God knows,

Ada: I can name the principal rivers in Europe, just don't ask me to name one stream in this county!

Ada: I can,,, I can embroider but I can't darn!

Ada: I can arrange cut flowers but I can't grow them!

Ada: If a thing has a function, if I might do something with it, then it wasn't considered suitable!

Ruby: Why?


Ada: Ruby, you can ask why about pretty much everything to do with me. This fence is about the first thing that I've ever done that might produce an actual result,


The second clip is from Romance in Manhattan (1935.) A newly arrived Czech immigrant (Karel) is trying to learn and work and is being helped by a 10 year old boy (Frank):

Frank: I got you fixed up

Karel: fine

Frank: you start Tuesday night

Karel: What am I going to study?

Frank: English composition, American history, spelling, and algebra

Karel: Algebra? I have to know that?

Frank: No, but I do and you could help me.


What do these clips have in common? School was dumb in 1864, was dumb in 1935, and continues to be dumb. Movie writera know we should be teaching practical skills that someone might need as adult. Instead we teach algebra and the names of rivers. Still today. New technology won't help. Throwing the curriculum out will help. And then, we would be able to create fun new curricula using the latest technology.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I think it is interesting and important to look at how education, learning and school is portrayed in the movies and media, so thanks for the post. As a teacher of economics(before I became a teacher educator)I have used the Ferris Bueller's Day Off clip quite often to illustrate issues around engagement and authentic learning (or the lack of both).

Thanks for your post - I wrote about the portrayal of learning in Science ficton a couple of months ago which you might likke to look at - http://marksparadigm.blogspot.fi/2015/04/whoa-i-know-kung-fu.html