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Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon (2006)

A documentary about a rural Oregon timber town and a rift between conservatives and liberals that threatens to put an end to a 40-year-old scholarship plan that pays the college tuition for... See full summary »



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A documentary about a rural Oregon timber town and a rift between conservatives and liberals that threatens to put an end to a 40-year-old scholarship plan that pays the college tuition for every local high school graduate the town produces. Written by Anonymous

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January 2006 (USA)  »

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Us vs. Them: Nobody Wins
12 June 2007 | by (Salem, Oregon) – See all my reviews

This film is about the legacy left by a man with altruistic intentions of providing a college education to students who would otherwise not have been able to afford one, and another man who mutated the original idea to his own ends.

In the late 1950s, Rex Clemens, the 'hero' (per se) of this film saw the writing on the wall regarding the decline of the timber industry in Oregon, and wanted to give the children of Philomath, Oregon an opportunity to get an education that would save them from a dismal and uncertain career in a town were the timber industry that once reigned unfettered had come to a screeching halt--and branch out into more promising fields. His motivation was to give the youth of Philomath, a town he dearly loved, the chance to compete in a changing world economy. Thus, he created a foundation that supported school-building projects and provided a 4-year college scholarship to any student that graduated from Philomath High School.

After Clemens' death, Steve Lowther, Clemens' nephew--who is now in charge of the foundation--lost sight of his uncle's original mission by using his personal religious and ideological agendas to keep 'undesirable' students from taking advantage of the generous opportunity his uncle created.

During the film Mr. Lowther proves to be his own worst enemy: In one of many times Mr. Lowther contradicts himself, he states that one of the objectives of the education process was to teach children social skills, but in another statement he accuses the school superintendent, Dr. Terry Kneisler (whom Lowther shows an open contempt for) of pursuing a "social agenda". (BTW, Dr. Kneisler, now the Superintendent of Reynolds School District in Oregon, is an intelligent, well-liked and respected man in his district.) A public forum was held--overseen by an impartial arbitrator--wherein all interested parties were encouraged to participate and express their views regarding Dr. Kneisler and his position as superintendent; a decision was later made that he should continue as superintendent. This decision enraged Mr. Lowther who, in the film smirked, "We took our toys and went home," meaning he withdrew the scholarship altogether. This 'my way or the highway' attitude, and his choice of words used to describe his disdain for the board's decision, personified the childish attitude he embraced when he didn't get what he wanted.

Additionally, the above-referenced forum was considered by Mr. Lowther to be underhanded, and declared that their differences be settled 'like men', behind closed doors, without the benefit of others listening to both sides of the issue and communicating their concerns, if any. Apparently, Mr. Lowther was either unaware of, or had no regard for Oregon state law that mandates School Board meetings OPEN to the PUBLIC (with limited exceptions, such as personnel contract negotiations, or consultation with attorneys).

Another example of Mr. Lowther's dubious beliefs was when he spoke of his strong religious Christian values, then declared his wish to 'tar and feather' Kneisler, a value I find quite the contrary to Christian values.

Ultimately, Mr. Lowther reinstated the foundation funding by attaching an admission restriction to students who had no "background" (i.e. who didn't come from families) in timber, mining and/or agriculture fields.

The point that this documentary drives home is that, while Mr. Lowther thought he was hurting Dr. Kneisler and his supporters by dismantling the foundation his uncle had created, he was actually 'clear-cutting' the young men and women whose opportunity to create a better way of life for themselves was felled by a man with an ax to grind. Timber.

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