Of course, it’s good for kids to watch good movies, which have been common coin for our children from the time they started sitting in front of a TV screen. Of course, one of the crucial objectives of public education is to overcome incidental differences at home (not every child gets exposed to the same movies). In principle, I’m all for encouraging the habit of movie-viewing, exactly as I’m for children getting in the habit of reading good books—ones that help to cultivate a love of beauty, a sense of aesthetic delight, but, most of all, a pleasure in the very act of reading.
But exposure is one thing; school is another. The educational system runs on compulsion. Kids have to go, and they have to take part, and the school curriculum is for children what the tax code is for grownups: the government’s way of inducing preferred behavior. It’s coercive, and it comes with a built-in measure of bureaucracy—which isn’t an argument against the institution of school but a red flag regarding its instrumentalization. When my wife and I showed our daughters Jacques Tati’s “Playtime,” nothing forced them to sit through it. When we tried Westerns, they told us, “No.” We didn’t coax them to write about the movies, didn’t organize discussions about them. Eventually, we chatted—or we didn’t. Our movie nights at home stayed within the realm of pleasures to share, and that may be one of the reasons why, for our daughters, those movies, and other classics that have followed, have remained pleasures. (They greeted news of the upcoming Hitchcock retrospective at Film Forum as if it were a sort of monthlong holiday.)
Agreed. Read the rest of Richard Brody's stellar piece on school, childhood, and film education here.