Letters to the Editor

Films are poor substitutes

Wow! Now I have heard everything! I have been told by students and educators alike that memorization of multiplication tables is no longer relevant because students have ready access to calculators. I have been told that attention to correct spelling is unimportant because computers have spell-check. Now I read in the Mirror that showing of films is an acceptable substitute for reading. In fact, a highly respected English teacher at Federal Way High School seems comfortable with the statement from some of her students that they have never read an entire book. Those not exposed to reading in school will likely never develop an interest as adults.

For those who have read a book, have you ever gotten so absorbed you were sorry to come to the end? Have you ever thought to yourself, “How could they ever make a movie that would do the book justice?”

Sadly, our school system has too often substituted entertainment for education. We have concluded that, unless students are stimulated, they will not learn. The educational process involves much more than that. The paramount goal is to discipline the mind. Memorization of multiplication tables, diagramming of sentences, spelling tests, requirements to recall dates and facts and figures are all exercises that require time, effort and discipline. Education is about preparing students to succeed.

I have long been opposed to the frequency with which videos are shown in the classroom. I can’t tell you how many times my sons and foster sons told me they had seen a film in this class or that class. And lest anyone argue that films are shown exclusively to foster stimulating dialog, I submit to you the fact that too often, students watch a video over a two- to three-day period just prior to a vacation break or the end of the school year. That is simply filler to keep the students entertained while teachers wrap up required activities.

If a teacher wishes to require a viewing of the film, that is fine. The video is readily available for rent or purchase. Inevitably, arguments will arise that some students do not have access to a VCR and/or some students cannot afford the rental cost. For those students, arrangements can be made to view the film after school in the classroom. But class time should be used for teaching, not for viewing. Better yet, require each student to read the book as homework. Instead of consuming a bit of the student’s time (when he or she is in the classroom anyway), hours of the student’s time will be spent productively and richly. And interestingly, students will see words correctly spelled as well as grammar and punctuation properly used. Who knows, that exposure may very well translate to stronger scores on standardized tests.

Ron Gintz

Federal Way

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