Coming to a Classroom Near You (2001)

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Coming to a Classroom Near You!

Oneseventh grader’s journey includes learning math through Scooby Doo
©2001 Gary S. Stager/Curriculum Administrator Magazine

A version of this was published in the August 2001 issue of Curriculum Administrator Magazine

At our annual family dinner to celebrate the end of another grueling school year, each of our children reflected upon the lessons learned and the obstacles overcome during the previous ten months. Our seventh-grade daughter, who will be referred to by the top-secret code name of Miffy, shared with us a new pedagogical strategy and use of educational technology not yet conceived of during my school years.

What was this innovation? Was it project-based learning, multiage collaboration, constructionism, online publishing, modeling and simulation? Nope, it was Disney films.

Yup, that’s right. Disney films (and several others too). The following is a partial list of the films shown this year during class time by my daughter’s teachers.

 

1st
period science

2nd
period math

3rd/4th
period language arts

6th
period physical education
(rainy days)

7th
period social studies

8th
period band

Young Frankenstein

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

Contact

 

The Andromeda
Strain

Mulan

 

The Lion King

 

Babe

 

Mighty Joe Young

 

Aladdin

 

Cinderella

 

The Little Mermaid

 

MTV videos

 

VH1 videos

 

Scooby Doo

 

The Nightmare
Before Christmas

Angels in the
Outfield*

 

Little Giants*

 

The Big Green*

 

The Sandlot*

 

Planet of the Apes

 

Mighty Joe Young

 

The Nightmare
Before Christmas

Babe

 

Charlotte’s
Web

 

The Lion King II

 

Aladdin

 

The Road to
Eldorado

 

Dinosaur

A
Touched by an Angel episode dealing with racism & prejudice

 

Remember the Titans

Rocky & Bullwinkle

 

The Emperor’s
New Groove

 

Grease

 

Star Wars: Return
of the Jedi

 

Mr. Holland’s Opus

By now you must be marveling at the interdisciplinary properties of The Nightmare Before Christmas.You may also be wondering why there were no movies shown during fifth period. That’s because they don’t show movies during lunch.
Now I’m as fond of wasting time and goofing-off as the next guy, but Miffy was able to remember watching at least 34 films having no educational value whatsoever in one school year. In case you were thinking that they could be studying film criticism or visual storytelling you should know that they only watched half of most films because the periods are too short. Others were watched over several days.

This remarkable waste of class time occurred in a school where requests for meaningful projects, hands-on experiments, field-trips, drama and other productive learning experiences are abandoned because of an oft-repeated “lack of time.” Sure the standardized tests and top-down curricular pressures wreak havoc with creating a productive context for learning, but we can’t blame this one on Princeton or the President. Somewhere along the line educators determined that the demanding curriculum was elastic enough for the illegal showing of countless commercial films.

My Daughter the Rodeo Clown

Miffy also told me that due to the SAT-9 exams, Career Day had been cancelled. I’m not sure which part of that statement is most tragic, so let’s state it in the form of a standardized test question.

Which is most pathetic?

a)    Canceling Career Day because of SAT-9  (standardized) testing

b)    Career Day

c)    The school’s remedy for having cancelled career day

The ingenious remedy chosen was to spend much of the last week of school watching a series of instructional videos called, “Real Life 101.” While hardly as educational as Mulan, these shows turned out to be far more entertaining. The audience was repeatedly reminded, “you don’t need a college degree for this career, but it wouldn’t hurt! “

The hosts of the series, Maya, Megan, Zooby and Josh (there always seems to be a Josh) introduced exciting career options for the high-tech interconnected global economy of the 21st century. The career options included the following: Snake handler, projectionist, naval explosive expert, skydive instructor, rafting instructor, diamond cutter, roller coaster technician, exterminator, auctioneer, alligator wrestler and my personal favorite growth industry – rodeo clown!

You can’t make this stuff up! The worksheet that followed the Career Day substitute asked each child to rank these careers in order of preference and write a few sentences explaining their number one choice.

If I wanted my children to watch television, I’d let them stay home. At least at home they could watch something educational like “Behind the Music: The Mamas and the Papas”or learn about Beat poetry from the “Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. ”  At least then they would have a chance to learn something more than the unfortunate lessons being modeled by their schools.

*My kid explained that all of these films share the same plot about a group of fat kids working hard together to win the big game – somewhere in there a lesson for us all.

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