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This is a disturbing, and perfectly-made short film of Clavell's
deceptively-simple book. It was made in the early 80's, and shown on
the television program, "Mobil Showcase".
The story is of a time when "they" have beaten us and taken over our country. "They" are different now than at the time the novel and the film were created, but "they" are still out there in one form or another.
The point is to give our young people the gift of conviction- a foundation for what they believe in and value about this great nation of ours, about God, and about themselves.
When we see how easily the New Teacher insinuates her pleasantly-delivered dogma upon a group of young children, it awakens an indignation that should not have been sleeping in the first place!
Think about a great teacher you have had; a teacher who really listened
to you and opened your mind to new ideas. Sounds great, doesn't it. Now
imagine such a teacher who uses their power for evil rather than good
and you have the teacher in James Clavell's The Children's Story. This
short film, based on Clavell's story of the same name, is set in a
typical American classroom, but certainly not in typical times. The
unthinkable has happened, we have lost a war and the new Leader has
just replaced all teachers. In a mere 25 minutes, all that we have
believed in and have taken for granted all our lives are shattered.
The message of this film is terrifying. The illuminating portrayal of the power that a teacher may hold over impressionable young minds is very thought-provoking. Within a few minutes of her arrival in the classroom, the new teacher (who tells the children to just call her "Teacher" for now, when asked her name), completely alters their ideology by sweetly convincing them that the Pledge of Allegiance is wrong in that it makes a flag more important than a person. She goes even further in her desecration of this symbol of nationhood by suggesting that since it is such a 'pretty' flag they should each have a piece of it. The children gleefully proceed to cut themselves each a piece of the flag.
The attack on their beliefs continues when she challenges the act of praying, all in the pretense of learning about their daily routine. With candy as a bribe, the teacher convinces the children that praying to God, a practice they had been following all their lives was useless. Even Johnny, the doubting Thomas of the class, is won over when the teacher rewards him for his sharp thinking in questioning her actions by making him class monitor for the week. The brainwashing continues with a speech about good thoughts and bad thoughts and the necessary re-education of the children's parents to eliminate any bad thoughts. What a clever Leader to use schools to manipulate children as a way to undermine an entire society!
The Children's Story is definitely a must-see for anyone interested in social theory and power relations,not to mention brainwashing.
The importance of the education system and of the teacher is strikingly
apparent in this weighty film by James Clavell. There is no question
that teachers and schools influence the minds of our young children and
help determine the ideologies and values which prevail within a
society. This short film begs us to examine whether schools should/do
mirror society or whether society mirrors the education/non-education
of our young. This film is set in a classroom in America, the world's
leader of Democracy and Freedom. Yet, in this picture, the complete
opposite is depicted.
When the audience delves into the critical issues presented in this film we see a teacher (in a less than typical manner) imploring her students to analyze, question and even adjust their way of thinking and, consequently, of acting. We see it over and over again in our country -- young minds brainwashed and told by parents, teachers, community members, the media and society how to do things, what to believe in and what is or should be important to us. And yet no one questions any of it. In this film, one young boy does question and does challenge the beliefs of the teacher. Through him, the viewer learns that the 'other' ways of doing things is okay.
This insightful film teaches about the beauty of diversity, and portrays a valuable lesson in how cultural, social and religious identities are crafted by the many forces around us. Some forces are stronger than others, we realize. Parents, the community and media are all powerful and can promote diverse ideas and social consciousness; however, in the chance that they fail to do so, school must be the place where critical and analytical minds are developed. We must educate our children not just about their world in which they live, but go further and to inform how we can change our thinking so that we make the alterations necessary for a newer, better world.
The representations and ideologies presented in this film encourage reflection on our own beliefs and ideas about this world and our role in it. Specifically, it examines and casts doubts on many of the ideas we hold about the United States. Let us examine the cutting up of the American flag as depicted in the film. The history of the flag is a long and tedious one, with many being prosecuted, shunned and punished for its so-called desecration. The teacher in this film implores the students to question it's meaning and value, and insists that it is simply a piece of cloth. This is a very important lesson in addressing how we show loyalty and pride in our country -- not simply by standing to attention in a classroom, but by understanding its history and why it is considered so important. Only after the flag is recognized as a symbol of our nation, are we able to become more responsible and informed citizens of our country.
This teacher begs the children to question the validity of their ideas and those of their forefathers. The Pledge of Allegiance includes a line which states, 'One nation under God'. The teacher effectively questions this notion by asking the children to pray to something else, 'a leader'. This is an insightful and candid look at the diverse religious beliefs present in the United States. While it may be true that America is one nation, it is not a country with just one God. Religion in schools should not just be limited to the Christian God that is so readily associated with the Pledge of Allegiance.
How successful will tomorrow's children be in filtering through the enormous amount of information that is presented to them? This film brings to light the need to educate children to be critical thinkers. In order for that to happen, we need an education system which looks at the world and it's systems in a critical way. Teachers are responsible for teaching the skills of decoding and understanding our world as depicted in the signs and representations present in our daily lives.
"There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the 'practice of freedom', the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world." - Richard Shaull, as quoted in the Forward of Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2009)
This film typifies the paranoid small-town mindset that dominated the U.S.A. in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Some shortcomings in the production and filmography techniques used were a bit distracting, but it's worth looking beyond that to see the underlying story. The introductory monologue becomes a "droning" for a moment, and you're never really told who "they" are. But overall, I find it a strangely and unexpectedly compelling piece of work. If you're of the belief that other countries or forces are out to dominate the U.S., or if you're just interested in gaining some insight into the mindset of those who believe such, this clip might be of some value to you.
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