There's been a running joke at my house for several months.
Back in late fall, several classes went on a field trip to see the movie "Lincoln." When they returned, naturally the other students asked how it was. One girl replied,"Well, there were parts of it that were funny, but I wouldn't recommend it." Clearly, she missed the entire point of the movie.
So our joke is "Parts of it were funny, but..."
Well, finally, finally, "Lincoln" arrived via Netflix this past weekend so finally, finally, I got to see it.
About ten minutes into the movie I turned to my husband and said "There is no way that those 8th graders understood any of this," to which he exclaimed "I know! Did any of the teachers actually see this before taking them??" There were so many reasons this movie would have been difficult for them to enjoy:
A: The language was very different from today, obviously.
B: You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about the Civil War.
C: You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about the people other than Lincoln (Seward, Willie, Mary, etc).
D: You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about slavery/states rights/emancipation/etc.
E. You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about racial attitudes of the time.
F. You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about social conventions of the time.
G. You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about how an amendment to the Constitution is passed.
H. You needed a fair amount of background knowledge about U.S. political geography of the time....
And on, and on, and on, and on. While watching this movie most of those kids were literally sitting there in the dark having no idea what was going on.
Which leads me to wonder, how many of them experience that at school every day?
Seriously. While it's understandable that many 14 year olds wouldn't have the background knowledge needed to fully appreciate "Lincoln," there is an enormous amount of knowledge that they should come to school armed with at this age yet they are lacking.
Some are easily fixed. Take, for instance, food groups: when I give them grocery store ads, very, very few of them can pick out three veggies, three fruits, three proteins, etc without a LOT of help. While it saddens me that they don't know what fruits and vegetables are, I can help fix that, in relatively short order.
However, there are others that cannot be easily fixed. Like conflict resolution skills - hence the frequent fighting suspensions. Face-to-face communication skills - thank you Facebook, Twitter, and cell phones. BASIC READING SKILLS - the crux of everything we do in school, so many students are lacking.
These ideas are not new to any of us; it's just that every once in a while you have an experience that gives you a hearty dose of perspective and you feel the need to share.
And by the way, "Lincoln" was awesome! If you haven't seen it, go watch it. Now.