In this engaging editorial
by Errol Morris, the filmmaker explores how photography is used to present complicated situations. At one point in the essay, Morris describes the propensity towards conspiracy that many of us develop in response to complicated situations. Morris states: "Conspiracies are what people turn to when they don't want to bother with more complex explanations. They are usually the product of not wanting to think about why things happened." This quotation reminded me of Isaiah Berlin's interest in a line from C.I. Lewis, who writes, "There is no a priori reason for thinking that, when we discover the truth, it will prove interesting." I put these two quotations together because I think they are a good reminder that though problems in education are complex, the solutions to these complex problems may prove uninteresting. If this way of thinking is accurate, I think it has implications for educational documentaries.
2 Million Minutes
is a film that is receiving decent publicity because it plays into the propensity that Morris speaks against. The film aims to replace the complexity of an educational problem by advocating for a compelling--if simplistic--solution. Viewers as diverse as Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich rush to herald an interesting new solution to an educational problem, and fail to see that the solution doesn't really map onto the complexity of the problem. At the same time, the film is popular--in part--because it is solution-oriented. Films that don't offer that kind of payoff, films that show us "more complex explanations," though ultimately more valuable, will often fail to find an audience. As such--and here I find myself following arguments made by Lawrence Cremin--schools of education need to get involved in the production of valuable forms of film and media, and they should introduce future teachers, administrators and policy-makers to this type of work. Though taking this path will often prove difficult and frustrating, I think it is an important one for schools of education to take.