The intent of this unit is to show high school students experiences of real people, as depicted in film and movies, an introduction of instances of good parenting in films about modern Americans. In the traditional classroom, it is the teacher who poses as the expert on the subject matter. While this might remain true in this instance, introducing students in parenting class to other real life experiences is important. In addition, guiding the development of the student’s ability to discern the truth and make judgement on the actions of parents on the screen will result in a far greater skill than just providing them with information. The unit is designed to enhance critical thinking skills and to assist students to separate fact and fiction. If students are observed using skills in decision making and if they adopt positive attributes, then the unit will be successful.
In general, the goal of this unit is to introduce films depicting Americans in several different historical eras as they are shown in parenting situations. Students will be guided in exercises which will enhance their critical thinking skills and ability to adopt and/or adapt positive attributes. As the year progresses, the teacher will promote self direction.
Although the parenting classes in New Haven Public Schools are usually filled with young black and Hispanic mothers, this unit is designed for young African Americans, male and female, who are already parents. It may be adapted for a wider audience. It presents a procedure for taking 20 to 25 selected days over the course of a school year to introduce African American parents and others, living or dead, as depicted on videotape and in film and to define and instill criteria for delineating responsibilities appropriately exercised. The exposures will be deliberately selected to show parents over several periods in American history. In fact, some of the parents will be people who hold positions of importance in American history.
When it comes to parenting and learning about parenting, young parents sometimes become even more stressed when confronted by obvious fantasy. They are turned off by unreal people in obviously made up situations Their attention is captured, however, by discussion with people who also have young children. They respond well when their parenting education involves real people in real situations. Film and video has been chosen as a medium because, unlike guest speakers, they are always available and the pool of films available contains a great variety of viewpoints. In its use, film can complement the traditional use of textbooks and guest speakers. Film can show students people who, for many reasons, can not come into the classroom - people from other centuries, for instance. Historian Robert A. Rosenstone noted that “A century after the invention of motion pictures, the visual media have become arguably the chief carrier of historical messages in our culture.” (Revisioning, page 3)
Certainly, the unit is designed for use in the regular high school classroom with heterogeneous groups. However, block scheduling or longer periods now used in some public high schools in New Haven present settings for using full length, commercially available features. Therefore, the lessons which involve movie watching can easily be conducted in the 90 minute periods, rather than the traditional 45 minutes. While even this longer time may not allow a class to view the entire film, teachers are encouraged to run the production at other times, such as afterschool, should that be possible. Secondly, the films chosen will be available in local video stores and in the public libraries and parents of the young parents will be encouraged to view the films with the students. It is assumed that the interest level will be high and that the discussion may spread to the family dinner table or TV room.
Students will be guided to identify the parents in the films and discuss their interactions with children. Students will, with close supervision, be assisted to focus on specific parental responsibilities as shown in the movies. Another anticipated result is that students may be motivated to read more about the parents in the films and, in general, life of that time period.
The teacher will strive to highlight the importance of personal integrity as necessary for good parenting. This is an extremely lofty goal, nearly impossible to measure. There are some goals which can be measured, however.