Movies in the Classroom?

             For thousands upon thousands of years of human history, one thing separating man from beast was their ability to express themselves through art. Arts like reading and writing, a practice that has been represented in various ways through various mediums. Music, a tradition and sometimes spiritual and emotional tradition. Art, from cave drawing to famous Renaissance painting. All of these arts are taught heavily in public schools, and for good reason. But in the last one hundred years, a new art form has emerged; cinema. Classic literature is taught in English classes nationwide, because they teach students about composition, storytelling, critical thinking, drawing themes from stories, and plot structure. But when it comes to classic film, very few classes are to be found. Although a film study/film history class could teach students those key skills far better than a literature class, that option is not available in schools.

            Written stories and literature has been around for thousands of years. But as we move into the digital age, paper books and hand-written stories are on the decline. As time runs on, writing will disappear. However, the art of film is relatively new compared to writing. And there are infinitely more opportunities to innovate and tell stories on the silver screen. Cinema has vast potential for longevity, and could be around, in some form, for a thousand years to come. Even today, we see that many students would rather watch a movie adaptation to a story rather than read the original book. So, a film study class would connect with a greater variety of students in a far more profound way then some dusty old novel.

            Film and cinema studies is useful and applicable not just for your run-of-the-mill English student, but also holds valuable information for art and technology students, such as those enrolled in a photography or computer software class. The craft of filmmaking focuses greatly not just on story, plot, words, and dialogue, but also lighting, composition, angles, and creativity. And after shooting, there is still a great deal of editing done. Many media companies are now offering top-dollar jobs for those who know how the use and handle editing software. So, a film production class is also a very practical career path class, opening doors to students that were previously closed.

            As the world marches into the future, it is important that our schools move right along with it. Literature is important, but it is the medium of the past. Film is the medium of the present and the foreseeable future. Nationwide film production/film history classes are a good investment of skill and knowledge into the students of the new generations. Even an incorporation of films studies into English classes right alongside classic literature will show a movement into new mediums and exploration of new ideas.

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Jonathan Wetzel, Wellsboro Area High School

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