Summer Movie: Worthwhile or a Waste of Time?
by The Milton Measure on Friday, September 21st, 2012
Since 2010, the Self-Governing Association (SGA) has assigned a summer movie for the Milton Upper School to watch. Upon returning to school, students in Classes I-III split up into senior-led groups to discuss the film and its cultural and social significance. Class IV students discussed the movie in faculty led groups. This year, the summer movie was Freedom Writers, a 2007 film based on the novel The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell, the film’s main character. The motives behind the assignment were not purely educational, as the movie does not specifically apply to any class’s curriculum. Instead, the movie is intended to make us, relatively privileged Milton Academy students, consider another reality that is far different from our own. However, does assigning a movie without a more formal assessment of the issues at hand really have that great of an impact? Often, each student’s own receptiveness determines how well the lesson will be absorbed.
The goal of the discussion groups, led by seniors and composed of students from Classes I-III, was that each participant would share thoughts and ideas that came to his or her mind while watching the movie. In most groups, however, the main contributors were seniors, whose ideas were complemented with occasional responses from underclassmen. I found that having seniors in a group of underclassmen detracted from the effectiveness of the activity. Milton is a very kind and embracing environment, but opening up and sharing ideas can seem hard, or even terrifying as a younger member of the community. If the groups were divided by grade and the leader asked for everyone to share something, the resulting discussion could become a lot more interesting and productive.
Another obvious problem is that a majority of Milton students cannot relate to a movie of this nature. After all, how much can a day student, from Milton, Mass., who has attended Milton Academy or similar schools for all of his or her life, truly understand about a group of kids in a failing school in Los Angeles, a city fraught with gang violence, just from watching a movie?
Yes, these cultural divides do pose a challenge for many Milton students, but the challenges are exactly why it was assigned to us. We all decipher tough math problems, interpret complex poems, play sports in the afternoon, or perform with a singing group at morning assemblies, yet some students say they cannot find a way to relate to a movie like Freedom Writers. I think this issue goes beyond students just not trying hard enough. The problem goes much deeper than just this movie. We, as a community, have lost touch of what it means to lend a helping hand. Though we have community service days where we all go and pet some cute dogs and drive to homeless shelters to serve some sandwiches we’ve reluctantly made, we’ve lost sight of the actual goal: making a difference. Community service, at Milton, has become something one does to put on a college app rather than something done out of compassion towards others less fortunate.
We as students need to stop and think about what we are doing and why we are doing it. When assigned to watch movies like Freedom Writers or Waiting for Superman, ask yourself “Why am I watching this and what is the message I should be receiving?” When going out to volunteer at a homeless shelter, stop and realize that the people you are helping deal with issues like where their meal is going to come from and where they’re going to sleep, while your biggest concern is the line at the panini machine. Most importantly, though, no matter what social class you come from, be grateful that you do have a place to call home every night and have a warm meal waiting for you at lunch; some people don’t.
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