Monday, November 16, 2009

Great Movie Teachers About Racial Inequality and American Medicine

The other day while my son and I were sick I decided we'd watch "Something the Lord Made", a movie which I stumbled across on our DVR's list of free movies. I recall hearing about the movie but honestly didn't know much about it.

The long story short is my nine year old was busy doing something so he missed the first half, overhearing it only. My twelve year old and I were engrossed in the movie. I had to pause it a few times to discuss the topics as this topic of Civil Rights and racial inequality in America has not yet been in my children's homeschool lesson plans. The topic has been discussed here and there as it pertained to our real lives and current events. However it was clear to me that my twelve year old hadn't previously "gotten it".

The movie is absolutely fantastic. It starts in the 1930s. An African-American man has graduated from high school and has worked with his father for seven years as a carpenter in order to save money to attend college and hopefully, medical school. The bank crashes and he lost all his money. He had been hired as a janitor for a doctor doing research and winds up being his lab assistant. They work together to develop the first open heart surgery. He never does make it to medical school. His learning is all self-taught and under an apprenticeship. Despite the laws he is basically practicing medicine (in a lab on animals) without a license. He struggled financially to make ends meet on his meager salary limited partially due to the fact that he is black and is classified as janitor level staff despite doing the same and more work than the white doctor. Later the Civil Rights Act is passed. Not to be missed is the fact that this man did what he loved despite not becoming rich and even making less  money than if he had some higher paying day job to pay the bills.

We discussed a lot about this movie. Animal rights, experimenting on animals, and medical ethics and experimental surgeries. We discussed working at one's passion even when it is not making a person rich. We of course talked about racial inequality in America and the Civil Rights Act. We also discussed the priest's objection to the idea of heart surgery and the medical profession's first fear of attempting it. We talked about college education in America, barriers to accessing it, and how learning can take place outside of formal schooling but real work experience doesn't always allow a person to do a job legitimately (for full pay). We discussed people taking credit for the work of others and also about working as partners and as a team.

My twelve year old begged to watch the movie again but with the whole family. He wants my husband to see it and to talk about it as a family. As a family we gathered tonight to watch it with my husband. This time I'm making my nine year old see the whole thing.

In future homeschool history lessons we will study this time period and we'll explore these topics more deeply.

I think this movie is a great introduction for kids to the topic, so long as they can handle the topics. There are some very mild surgical scenes which are nothing compared to medical reality shows seen on cable TV today. There are a few profanities here and there, one or two times the F word is used. There is a dramtic scene when we are not sure if the baby girl will survive the first open heart surgery performed on a human.

I think this is a great example of a fine movie that can be used for educational purposes as a homeschooling lesson as well as an excellent conversation starter.

1 comment:

Forget Me Nots Design said...

My children are too young to read this, but my Husband and I really enjoyed this movie.