Are Movies in Class a Waste of Student's Time?

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 at 9:55 PM
Are Movies in Class a Waste of Student's Time? by The Spectator

It was second period in an English class. The first time I noticed it, we were watching the 1974 adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” and I was enjoying the film. I thought it was something special — a period piece that excellently captured what it must have been like, aesthetically, in the roaring 20s.

I was engrossed.

To my left, someone was reading a book. To my right, texts were being exchanged at lightning speed.

These people were not giving this movie the time of day.

I felt like this was clearly some joke, one where people suddenly decided they had better things to do than watch an old movie that had to do with our studies. Why prepare for the upcoming test by watching this film when they could be making weekend plans or browsing their Pinterest boards, they must have asked themselves.

The next week, we took our inevitable test on Gatsby and Daisy, and how the movie related to the book. I passed. Those near me did not. They claimed it was ridiculous and that it was the teacher’s fault for their low marks. They had said the teacher had wasted their time.

Years later, in college, we watched “Good Night, and Good Luck,” a movie about Edward R. Murrow, a famed journalist, radio, and television personality that had shown the world what was really going on in England during World War II, as well as the truths behind the Red Scare.

Much like “The Great Gatsby” all those years before, I fell in love with this movie, and it taught me a lot about the past, about what makes a good journalist, and about filmmaking.

Within the sea of murmurs that flood classrooms after a lecture is over, I heard things like “this is such a waste of time,” and “I don’t need to know any of this, what’s the point?”

I silently disagreed with them at the time.

Now, here I am, expressing what I should have said that day.

Films, since their inception, have been about addressing issues in the world by presenting imaginary situations or storylines. They can be inspired by true events, or document the life and times of human beings that existed, like the aforementioned “Good Night, and Good Luck,” or last year’s “Trumbo.” Films can be adaptations of novels or plays that can expand our understanding of something, or maybe even enhance the meaning of the work as a whole.

This being said, films are not always good. I acknowledge this. They’re not always enjoyable. They’re, quite often, dull or maybe even borderline soul-crushing, but I firmly believe that each one has something to teach us. Be it what not to do when writing a script, or what actually happened during the Cold War, films are made for a reason, and an impossible amount of work goes into making some of these films you are neglecting to watch.

When a movie is shown in class, be it one about design, one about Henrietta Lacks, or even one about the Big Bang, it's being shown for a reason. Teachers and professors know what material will best supplement their courses, and when a film is being shown I think we, as students, should embrace those class periods and actually learn something from them.

If it isn’t clear, I believe that films are something that we need to look at, listen to, and understand, because more often than not, there’s a clear reason why they are being shown in the first place.

By watching films in class, we can learn in a way other than notes on a powerpoint slide. We can understand time periods, history, design, and more, if we only just pay attention to what is on the screen. Movies can inspire, and sometimes inspiration shows itself in mysterious ways or, in this case, within the frames of “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

You may think that having a movie take up three periods of a class is wasting your time. If that’s the case, I’m sorry to say that you may be wasting an opportunity to learn something, and that’s, if I’m not mistaken, the point of attending a university.

So, I implore those of you who sit idly by as a film plays out in class. I implore those of you who text through movies. I implore you all to get off your phone, stop doodling, and wake up, because there’s a movie on — maybe you should watch it.

Our viewpoint is voted on by the staff of The Spectator.

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