Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oh lost knowledge . . .

Today in class my college students were to watch Sling Blade and begin work on an essay comparing elements of that film to the book Of Mice and Men. Singularly, this is one of my favorite assignments to work on in the class -- very literary, interesting topics -- overall a strong unit. Quid pro quo: Sling Blade can be a rough film at times, so when I have students 16 or under, I tell them don't show up and instead watch Simon Birch, still a strong film that contains similar elements, only in a prettier package. I understand that though Sling Blade is the stronger film, for younger students, it may not be appropriate.

Half way through the movie, two students got up and walked out, and asked me if they could watch a different film. Evidently, the harsh language (in one scene only , for the most part) and the R rating when against their religion. I referred them to Simon Birch and they left.

Here is my rhetoric about it, and please don't throw eggs! I understand religious conviction, but at the same time, I am saddened about the knowledge they will lose in the name of religion. Don't try to call me out to the carpet on the "religion" aspect - I am a homeschooling Catholic Christian for goodness sake! But hiding knowledge is not part of my agenda, and I don't think it is part of God's as well. We've seen what happens when a religion hides from knowledge, or tries to hide it from others; the Catholic Church made that attempt in the Middle Ages and "hello" Protestant Reformation!

God does not want us to hide from knowledge - He tried that once in the Garden of Eden and saw how that worked. Of all people, God's people should not be an ignorant populous. God wants educated people, people who read the Bible AND more. The more knowledge one has, the better one can study his/her religion, teach it to others, and defend against it. While the language in the film was bad, the themes of the film bespoke such greater purpose, and for these students, that knowledge is forever lost. They now cannot evaluate, assimilate, analyze, or discern any of that information - they purposely elected ignorance over learning, and that is a choice I just cannot understand.

Socially, it is bad as well. I give them credit for standing up for their beliefs, but to what end? In America, we cry and cry over the loss of academics on our youth - who then grow into ignorant adults. If they are unknowledgeable about some of the more gruesome horrors of the world, how can they then stand up against those when it matters? Evil does not always present loudly; it creeps in on quiet footsteps until we are intimate with it and no longer cringe from its presence. In American, our Evil is a willingly uneducated population, but the uneducated masses don't know. We have seen this before too, in Nazi Germany - first a cleansing of the music, then the books, then the Jews. And their excuse? "We didn't know." In America, we wonder how they could look evil in the face and not see it, but if it creeps and becomes your friend, you DON'T know.

That is the point - film and literature deal with elements, characters, and themes that directly reflect on social mores, life, and the human condition. The ability to identify those elements, learn from them, analyze and evaluate them, is a indisputable part of knowledge and rhetorical ability. While the content may have been less than pleasing at times, as adults, they should use that opportunity to wrestle with those elements and themes, and apply their Biblical rhetoric to show the human failing or the lack or moral rectitude. They could have elected to become more knowledgeable, to see how their religious standpoint would concern itself with such behaviors.

Instead, in their ignorance, they will let the Evil in, and allow it to creep a little closer.