Tag Archives: motion pictures

Video for the Classroom: Electing a US President in Plain English

Happy New Year!

We just rang in 2012 and amazingly, the Iowa Caucuses are tonight, beginning another presidential election season. 

Eventually, someone will ask about that 18th century enigma, the Electoral College.  This nifty video from CommonCraft.com explains the process in a straightforward way, so as to avoid those uncomfortable questions…

such as “Why the fuck do we need an Electoral College anyway?”

That’s for another class.  Enjoy.

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Movies for the Classroom: A Christmas Carol (1971)

The holidays are never complete without Charles Dickens‘ immortal Victorian morality tale–and now you can show among the best versions of the story.

In 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was not only a wildly popular bestseller.  In so many words, Dickens defined the modern definition of Christmas in Britain and especially in America.   Practically overnight, A Christmas Carol re-introduced the English-speaking world to a holiday that had been largely forgotten for almost two centuries.

Ever since the ban on Christmas during the Cromwellian era, the holiday was looked down upon as an idolatrous Catholic vice.  Even in America, only Anglican Virginia and outlying German Lutheran and Catholic settlements on the frontier really celebrated it.

Dickens’ work practically re-oriented the holiday from its more religious underpinnings to a secular, family-based celebration of comraderie and goodwill.  Even the most dour Calvinist couldn’t argue with those sentiments.  As the novel became popular, the markings of the celebration as noted on the pages–gift-giving, trees, pine wreaths, holly, carols, food, etc.–started to sprout in Britain and the United States (Puritan New England was slower in adopting it: many parts of the region wouldn’t allow Christmas celebrations until the 1870s.)

Thus, the holiday we see today comes almost directly from this 1843 novel.

Like any popular story, A Christmas Carol has been adapted for stage and screen numerous times.  The version attached today is among the best.  This 1971 animated film won the Academy Award for best animated short film: the only version of the story to be honored with an Oscar.  Directed by Richard Williams and produced by legendary animator Chuck Jones, the film’s style is lifted almost directly from 19th century illustrations, as well as 1930s illustrations of a popular reprint.  The tone is sufficiently dark to suit the somber Dickensian world of mid-19th century London: you can smell the smog and misery.

I think its among the best adaptations of the story around.  The mood of the story is sufficiently dark and upbeat to satisfy all audiences–but particularly older students.  This definitely lends itself to discussions of Victorian society, values, social welfare and government policies to the less fortunate.

Or it just could be a great Christmas yarn (which it is).  You can decide.  Enjoy.

 

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Videos for the Classroom: History of the World in Seven Minutes

Why can’t all our units of study be this concise?!

The good folks at the Social Studies and History Teachers Blog put up an interesting little video about world history.  World History For Us All created this film to show the birth and development of our planet.

Its informative, interesting and well made.  Yet what should strike students is how the time is broken up.  In a video that is over seven minutes long, only the last two minutes are devoted to recorded human history.  It should give a sense of how infinitesimally short our existence has been on this Earth.

Enjoy.

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