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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Film Strips in Class - WHY?!?

As I've previously announced, there's going to be a lot of changes happening in the blog beginning on Monday.  And, because of that, this is going to be the final edition of the "Saturday Smorgasbord".

Oh, but don't worry.  I won't be completely abandoning the cartoon and toy discussions.  They'll just be moving to other days of the week.  Possibly they'll be discussed in the Tube Talk Thursday section.  Or they could be a part of the Tuesday Timeline.  Or, quite possibly they'll be discussed in the "as of right now secret" Who Am I Wednesday portion of the blog.  So, they'll still be around...just in a lesser, supporting role.

For now, I thought that since we're going to be transitioning into the all new "Saturday Night At The Movies" section, that we'd do a topic that has to do with movies in some format.

Certainly there's one place where I can remember watching a ton of movies.  Movies that taught you life lessons.  Movies that inspired you to do something.  Movies that showed you how things were made.

And, sorry to say it was also a place in which we watched movies solely for the purpose of killing time because our teachers were too lazy to come up with an actual lesson plan.

Yes, I'm talking about school.  And, the subject for today's blog entry has to do with those film strips and educational movies that we were forced to watch as elementary school children.

I think that almost every single of us who ever went to elementary school knows those "educational film strips" very well.  Certainly those "educational film strips" have been lampooned in pop culture quite often.  How many times have you heard a sitcom character lament the fact that they spent the whole day watching film strips about cheese?  Or, how many times have you seen characters in a television show fall asleep in a classroom set because they get bored with watching the film that they are being shown in class.

And do I even need to talk about the number of film strips that the kids of Springfield Elementary School on "The Simpsons" have watched?  Chances are, if Troy McClure was the host of the video, you'll essentially have learned nothing about how anything was really made!

Well, that's basically how I felt watching some of the film strips and videos that we watched in class.  I have a confession to make.  I HATED movie day in school.

(Well, okay, I didn't HATE it.  I liked it during the last week of school when we moved our desks out into the hallway and we sat on the floor of the classroom watching movies such as "The Little Mermaid", "All Dogs Go To Heaven" and "The Sandlot".  That was always fun...well, provided you liked the movie, anyway.)

But whenever we had the opportunity to watch an "educational" film or video, I always saw it as my cue to take a nap during class.  Was it just me, or were they not the most pointless activity in class?

For one, whenever they showed us educational videos in class, you could tell that they weren't actual tapes that the school board used their own money to buy.  Nope, instead they were on those really retro Memorex VHS cassette tapes and recorded on VCR's by teachers in their own home. 

For another, I can't even begin to tell you how many of those videos came from the educational television network known as TVOntario circa 1980s.  The reason why?  I was obsessed with TVOntario as a little boy.  I watched it all day long whenever I was sick from school, and my mother always had it on in the house before I even started school.  I watched a lot of "Readalong", "Read All About It", "The Science Alliance", and even tried to sit through that French show "Telefrancais" with that asinine talking pineapple named "Ananas"!  I watched so much TVO as a little kid that I was downright sick of it by the time I got to elementary school.

So, imagine my disdain when our teachers always showed educational videos from TVO during class to supplement their lessons.  I was completely bored stiff.  After all, I had seen every single one of those least half a dozen times!  It's a wonder that I didn't recite the scripts from memory.

And, don't even get me started on those film strips.  For those of you who might not know what film strips are, they're those little pieces of orangey-brown film that sort of look like a roll of undeveloped negatives from a retro camera that you slide into a machine that projects them onto a screen.  In most cases, the teacher had a sliding projection screen that was installed in front of the blackboard (or, in the case of my elementary school, greenboard) and we watched the film strips on that. 

Now, because these were film strips, they didn't move like the typical film.  In fact, to make the experience of watching a film strip even more unbearable and worthless, the film strip often included a cassette tape (yep, you can tell I went to elementary school in the late 1980s/early 1990s), and that cassette tape contained the transcript for the film.  

This wouldn't have been so bad had the transcript been read by someone who had a lot of pep, or who sounded as if they were being paid five hundred thousand dollars to describe the film strip.  Heck, even "Full House" character Joey Gladstone reading the film strip in his Popeye voice would have been an improvement over the people that did read the transcripts.

To put it simply, the transcript readers of the film strips were so dull and monotonous they make Ben Stein sound like Richard Simmons.  And, although the example up above is a little better than's still quite bad.

What was even worse about the whole thing were that the film strips were all created at least two decades before we were all born!  Did our teachers even come to think that maybe history has the potential to radically shift in just a couple of decades?  Did they even realize that the ability to make cheese has gotten a lot more complex since 1961? 

Nah...I don't think they cared at all.  They were still drawing a salary from their work.  If they could get away with not teaching us anything at all by letting twenty year old film strips educate us instead, you know they'd jump on the chance.

(Not ALL teachers were like this, mind you...but I did have quite a few who did exactly that.  Not that I'll ever name names or anything.)

Truth be told, I hated film strip day.  Most kids I knew didn't mind it because watching a movie in class meant that they could get a day off from doing reading, writing, and arithmetic.  But, to be honest with you, I hated movie day.  I was one of those kids (who became one of those adults) who found it much easier to learn by actually doing the activities in class...not watching some middle-aged actors who were clearly bitter over not having done more with their acting careers do the activities for me!  In fact, although it might have contributed to my poor vision today which requires me to wear glasses, I was lucky enough to have had seats that were shrouded in enough natural light for me to try and read a book while the film strips were being played.  It wasn't as if we were being tested on the material in the movie after all.  It was just there as a babysitter while the teachers graded papers, or worked on lesson plans, or took a sip out of their flask that they kept in their desks arranged the numerous pens, pencils, and Cadomark permanent markers on their desks.

I mean, if the film strips actually taught me anything, I might feel differently about them.  But the only thing those film strips taught me was just exactly how much I hated film strips.

Still...there were a couple of them that I remember from my youth that I sort of liked.  I couldn't find the first one online anywhere, but the film strip was about giving people "Warm Fuzzies", and there was actually an activity at the end of it.  We were all given ten different Warm Fuzzies papers, and we had to give ten of our classmates one by writing something nice about them.  Unfortunately, I didn't get many back...but you know, the giving was more important than the receiving anyway. 

(Though admittedly the second grade version of me was a bit miffed that he doled out compliments to kids who really could care less.)

And, to end off this blog on film strips, I'll post another one that I DO remember watching and somewhat liking.  If anything, that song got stuck in my head for six months straight, and now it's my turn to repay the favour.

Happy viewing!

1 comment:

  1. I also couldn't find anything online about the "Warm Fuzzies" film. Glad to see you mentioned it though, and that it wasn't just a childhood fever dream.