Using film to teach Citizenship

04 Oct 2016 BY Daryn Simon in Using Film to Teach...

4 mins
Edward Scissorhands
Edward Scissorhands

Former Head of History and film club leader at Ysgol Bryn Alyn, Daryn Simon is embarking on a PhD in Education, where he will be researching the effect of developing teachers' understanding and expertise in critical thinking skills. His research will focus to a topic close to his heart, the role of film in the classroom.

Below, he discusses howfilm can be used to stimulate discussion around themes of identity and diversity, challenge young people's perceptions of society, and how to use it to address important areas citizenship in the curriculum.

At face value films provide entertainment and real emotional experiences for the viewer; in addition, however, they are invaluable tools for allowing young people to challenge their understanding of the world and help them to become increasingly active and thoughtful citizens. Film can be used to stimulate discussion, generate debate, and challenge our perceptions of society. Furthermore, films can be used to address some important areas of the citizenship curriculum such as participation and peaceful protest (Gandhi, 1982) the significance of a fair and just legal system (In the Name of the Father, 1993) and the structure of the class system in the UK (Ratcatcher, 1999).

Film can also be used to address issues surrounding identity and diversity. As part of a research project into using film to enhance pupils critical thinking skills, the Year 9 film club watched Edward Scissorhands (1990). During the session following the screening pupils engaged in a philosophical debate around questions such as are there any issues surrounding identity in the film?, What is prejudice and how is prejudice different from discrimination?. These post-screening questions generated some interesting debate and discussions, with pupils making links from the films characters to their own experiences of society.

There are many other films which can be used to explore diversity in schools. Selma (2015) is a great film for exploring race whereas Inside I'm Dancing is a wonderful film for raising questions about the limitations and possibilities of physical disability. *My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) provides a wonderful impetus for discussing sexuality and inter-race relationships. Finally, *East is East (1999) is not only a hugely entertaining film but also does a great job of addressing religious and ethnic diversity in the UK.

Citizenship education should be about helping young people to understand their roles and responsibilities in society. It should also provide opportunities for pupils to become increasingly knowledgeable about aspects such as the judiciary and the pillars of government. Most importantly, however, it should help pupils to develop their critical thinking skills so they are able to make informed decisions and contribute to the democratic process. Election (1999) is a good example of how film can be used to support pupils understanding of these key themes. Although based around a schools presidential elections, it raises important questions about representation and participatory democracy. This gives an indication of how film has the power to both reflect and affect society.

*These films are not covered by the PVSL.

Head of History and film club leader at Ysgol Bryn Alyn

Daryn Simon, Head of History

Daryn Simon is former Head of History at Ysgol Bryn Alyn in Wrexham. He's currently embarking on a PhD in Education, where he will be researching the effect of developing teachers' understanding and expertise in critical thinking skills. 

This Article is part of: Using Film to Teach...

A series of articles that highlight how the medium of film can be used to teach a wide variety of subjects and themes.

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