A child’s education is more than just what they learn in school. Yes, math, science, and knowing where to use periods and capitals are all important, but school doesn’t provide instruction in common culture. My daughter just graduated last year, and in not a single one of her classes did they cover how to use Facebook, how NOT to use facebook, how to text, program a phone, or chat online. That’s all stuff they learn from each other, the oral knowledge of the teenager.
As parents, it is our job to expose our kids to all of those things that schools don’t teach. At the moment, as part of her cultural education, I’ve been on a cheesy sci-fi kick with Aubrey. It all started with us watching Pride and Prejudice…the relatively new one with Keira Knightly and Donald Sutherland. She made a comment that Donald Sutherland was gorgeous, and that he must have been really hot when he was younger. I laughed as I said that she had him confused with Kiefer Sutherland, who is totally hot. However, she was stuck on Donald Sutherland, so I suggested that we watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers. When she saw Daddy Sutherland, she agreed that no, he wasn’t very attractive at all. After watching that, Ron, Aubrey, and I talked about various sci-fi movies, and we discovered that she didn’t know the “secret” of Soylent Green. We told her she needed to watch it before someone ruined the ending for her. She figured it out about halfway through, and even though it was ridiculously cheesy, she loved it.
My dad was a projectionist. For all you youngsters out there, when someone went to the movies, there wasn’t some minimum wage teenager pressing play on a dvd up in that box at the back of the theatre. When I was little (and by that, I mean age three), my dad used to take me to work with him while my mom was at work. I’d sit up in the booth and play with the little yellow centers that the film came wrapped around. Movies came in large, flat, metal canisters; depending on how long it was, it could be anywhere from two canisters up to five. The film then had to be spliced together, and wound on HUGE platters, about eight feet in diameter. There were three platters; one for the main film from front to back, one for the double feature film, and then the take-up platter. After a movie was over, it would have to be rewound, which was part of the reason for intermission. It was terrifying to stand close to the flying platters, and I could feel the breeze created by their spinning, but I loved those little yellow centers. Movies were switched out every Thursday night (unless they were being shown for another week), which meant my dad worked until 6am breaking down the old films back into the cans, and splicing together the new ones for Friday night.
It was pretty common for my mom to take me to the theatre, or the drive-in. I loved the drive-in, because we got to sit on the roof of the projection building and had our choice of four different screens. There were the metal speakers on poles up there, just like the ones that people put in their cars. I felt like I was one of the luckiest kids ever, especially when Star Wars came out. I saw it 71 times in the theatre, long before cable or videos came along. When it was released, my viewing reached well into the hundreds. I desperately wanted to be Luke Skywalker. I couldn’t stand Leia, even though Luke was pretty damned whiny. I saw every cheesy sci-fi movie that existed in the seventies; Logan’s Run, Planet of the Apes, Close Encounters of the Third Kind…more than I can name.
In spite of that, I couldn’t remember more than a handful of films, so I posted a question on facebook asking all my geek friends for recommendations. They did not disappoint. The Day The Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, Flash Gordon…the list goes on. We’ve been watching two or three movies a week, in between our normal tv shows, and for those times when we don’t feel like watching an entire movie, we started watching the Twilight Zone. They have the entire series on Netflix, which rocks. I love the Twilight Zone because there were so many nobodies who later became big name actors.
Back to Aubrey’s education…
After watching a few episodes, she started to notice a trend. Most of the episodes were all male, and if there was a woman, she was either overly dramatic, whiny, or downright bitchy. All of the female characters were extremely weak, depending on men for everything. Short of creating a hot tub time machine and dropping her into the middle of the 1950’s, there is no better way of experiencing what it was like for women 50 or 60 years ago. When we got to the episode with the convict on an asteroid, who is given a female robot that he claims is his dream woman, we discussed why he felt that way, and talked about The Stepford Wives. I told her that men’s ideal at that time was a woman who did exactly what they were told, without question. She said she would have died a spinster. While watching the episodes (because there are more than one) having to do with “the Russians are coming!” we discussed the Cold War, the space race, and the fascination with aliens from outer space. We both agreed that the Twilight Zone should be required watching in history classes.
When considering cultural education, most people think of symphonies and art, but seeing a picture doesn’t really give one the immersion of a film or tv show. I used to believe that if someone wanted to know what an era was like, reading the comics was the way to go. Beetle Bailey, Brenda Starr, and of course, Blondie…one of the most sexist cartoons ever. Now I would say that TV shows are more indicative of life during a specific cultural period (at least, since there’s been TV and movies).
So if you have a child over the age of 10, expose them to the movies and television of your childhood, and even your parents childhood. Use them as a jumping off point for discussions about why people did the things they did. You might be amazed at how much your kid can contribute to such a discussion…and it might even raise their SAT scores.
“all that I have is all that I forgot to say…”