Monday, July 25, 2011

Look You Upon My Haircut and Despair

I really enjoy old educational videos. It's a particular problem of mine. I should probably seek some form of professional help. But there is something about outdated pedagogy, horrible acting, and strange and upsetting haircuts that just make me happy. Like I said: it is certainly worthy of years of powerful therapeutic intervention.

I first discovered these educational films as a child in rural West Virginia. We were subjected to a ton of these. We generally watched them on old reel-to-reel machines that, while perfectly quaint additions to some steampunk themed party today, were simply cheap pieces of junk back then. (To be clear: they are cheap pieces of junk now too. Just cool cheap junk.)

I rediscovered them later in life when Mystery Science Theater 3000 started airing them before the shorter, more Roger Corman-y films they showed. I instantly recognized them- creepy, dull, but somehow very real. Like a horror villain. I couldn't get enough. Recently, Rifftrax began airing similar shorts, with a broader (and arguably even creepier) selection of films. Some of these newer ones seemed aimed at urban schools, which delighted me to no end. In part because it made me realize that the super white and suburban short films we saw as a kid were meant for us! Someone had thought through the process long enough to decide, "Oh these bland and terrible films are being sent to West By God Virginia. Make sure to make them PURE WHITE and even duller than usual. Those kids can't handle the truth."

With all the madness for technology in education and Web 2.0 nonsense in schools today, this kind of mass produced madness is probably lost forever. I kind of hope not, personally. I hope that I can bring it back into my classroom, if only for a day. I want kids to study it as a history lesson. My generation may have not been through war, kids. But we saw shag haircuts floating over horrible special effects. We were told about our bodies by afro-sporting white guys in jumpsuits. We learned that drugs were free and available at every school bus stop. Unfortunately, we also learned that those same drugs could make the shag haired freaks in jumpsuits go away...

And that, kids, is why we grew up to be the generation that created reality tv. Don't do drugs.


Herc said...

You will be delighted to know that when I started at Lowes, there were a TON of education films to watch. Some were on a computer, sure, but most were on VHS tapes. It was exciting (you know, relatively speaking).

So maybe the kids won't get them in school (a big shame), but they'll get them eventually.

Ryan Beggar said...

Yes! I had totally forgotten the work related ones. I saw a few when I worked at Hardee's in HS. (You earn lifetime southerner points for having ever worked a Hardee's. They have biscuits and gravy ALL THE DAMN DAY!)