At the Movies with Rethinking Schools

Summer is the season of Hollywood “blockbusters.” Unfortunately, most films that come out during summer are duds, so here we propose some alternatives that will both entertain and educate.

These articles are free for all friends of Rethinking Schools.

Gasland-DVDSTKR-FFracking: In the End, We’re All Downstream, by Julie Treick-O’Neill
A 9th-grade social studies teacher uses the Academy Award-nominated Gasland to help her students explore the environmental and social impact of fracking natural gas.

Coal at the Movies
Classroom DVDs on coal and mountaintop removal mining, reviewed by Bill Bigelow.

Reviews: Videos with a Conscience, by Ryan Zinn
Resources to help teachers and students delve into the economics and politics of food.

Review: “But You Guys Wanted Us Here,” by Moé Yonamine
A film tackles the U.S. occupation of Japan. Teaching activities included.

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King Corn: Teaching the Food Crisis, by Tim Swinehart
King Corn follows an acre of corn to market and a future as ethanol, food sweeteners, and animal feed. The journey anchors a curriculum on the international food crisis and how much choice we have over what we eat.

Review: Dignity and a Haircut, by Wayne Au
A review of the film American Pastime describes baseball under mass incarceration.

Who’s Crazy? Students Critique The Gods Must Be Crazy, by Chris Hawking, with Cresslyn Clay and Colin Pierce
Remember that cult classic The Gods Must Be Crazy? Posing as multicultural, the film supports the very biases that it claims to critique.

Review: ‘Our Dignity Can Defeat Anyone,’ by Julie Treick-O’Neill
A film about work and workers in Mexico, Maquilapolis inspires high school students. Finally, a film about sweatshops that views workers as more than victims.

We haven’t written an article about it yet, but another film idea is to check out the widely acclaimed and award-winning Dirty Wars, by Jeremy Scahill, and use the teaching activities from our new book Teaching About the Wars (available as a PDF for only $7.99) to bring home the lessons from the film.

When we sent this list out to our e-newsletter list, we received a few more suggestions for films to use in the classroom, including:
What films have you used successfully in the classroom?  Please share in the comments.
If you want to write about your experience using film in your classroom or write a review for Rethinking Schools magazine, check out our writers guidelines.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

The Silence of Struggle in the Curriculum

by Bill Bigelow

One of the great silences in the mainstream school curriculum is the role that social movements have played in making this a fairer, more peaceful, more democratic world. If you think things are bad today, imagine what they would be like without the movements to abolish slavery, to demand women’s rights, to end unjust wars, to fight for civil rights, to defend the environment—or for workers to bargain collectively for a living wage and workplace dignity.

Bread and Roses CentennialOne of the most significant struggles for workers’ rights began exactly one hundred years ago, on January 12th in Lawrence, Mass., when thousands of textile workers began a walkout that would come to be known as the Bread and Roses Strike, as well as the Singing Strike.

You’re unlikely to find much more than a mention of this important strike in a typical high school history textbook, if that. But as Norm Diamond points out in his article for the Zinn Education Project, “One Hundred Years After the Singing Strike,” this was a remarkable struggle that united mostly young women workers speaking dozens of languages in a dead-of-winter contest with some of the richest men in the United States. And the workers won.

The Zinn Education Project includes a number of teaching materials about the strike:


The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the use of Howard Zinn’s best-selling book A People’s History of the United States and other materials for teaching a people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. The website offers more than 100 free, downloadable lessons and articles organized by theme, time period, and reading level. The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change.