For today’s teenagers, the fine line between reality and fiction sometimes disappears in the dark caverns of the movie houses or on the magical screen of the television. Yet real or not, the visual images presented in the 200 seat theater or through the television cube are integral components of the life of today’s adolescent. These images persistently invade the lives of today’s American families. For the majority of today’s adolescents, role models very often are real and fictitious media “stars” up on the screen.
So, it is important that teachers, in part at least, reconstruct teaching methods and materials to include more video and film in order to teach skills and transmit information. With many high caliber productions about real people on the market today, this use of media also allows unique opportunities to introduce students to many important people as they begin to parent children. Videos and movies can be excellent instructional tools.
Students in parenting classes throughout New Haven are very diverse in their lifestyles, but similar in their needs. Several years of experience show that these students want to be introduced to role models who demonstrate good parenting practices. As many as 10 to 20 per cent or any high school population may be parents already. Another part of the total population contemplate parenthood seriously and frequently. The last of these students seek a social group, like those formed in parenting classrooms.
In the parenting classroom, however, there is little distinction between groups. And, no matter what the composition of the class, one prevailing topic is responsible parenthood. Whether as a part of the planned curriculum or an unplanned emerging conversation, students exhibit a desire to understand how they can become a “good” mother or father. The question unfolds weekly as the class topics move from choosing to become a parent to pregnancy, infanthood and toddlers.
At the risk of appearing patriotic, the use of films produced as statements of American history whether they be documentary or entertainment production, is, in essence, a means of passing yet another slice of American values along to young people.
“The historical is history as a vision - a vision that involves such an enormous perceptual and conceptual change from the academic sense of the past that to find its equal we would have to skip past the significant alterations in historical practices of the last three hundred years and return to that period over two thousand years ago when, in the Western world, the written word began to replace the oral tradition. Despite vast differences in the game, both historians and filmmakers approach the materials of the past with one major similarity. Both possess attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs - entire value systems - that color everything they express and underlie the interpretations by which they organize and give meaning to the traces of the past.” (Robert Rosenstone, Revisioning: Film and the Construction of a New Past, page 6)
Filmmakers can introduce events and real human behavior in a unique way. It is true that film or video about real people, no matter how well done, reflect the author’s views. But, generally, positive or negative, what underlies all of this are American standards and values. The theory here is to promote the positive, particularly in viewing parents in action. Standards and values are most important issues in the field of parenting.
Thus using film and video gives the classroom teacher another way to present information, a method utilizing a medium most amenable to today’s student. This is the generation which is growing up with sprawling cineplexes and television in living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens. Constant visual images on the screen are great in number and constantly flashed before the teen of today.
This unit may introduce some productions to which young, urban parents would not usually be exposed. In addition, it may help them to gain a new perspective from some films already quite familiar to them.