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Through These Eyes 2003

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources, 101 Morse Street, Watertown, MA 02472; 617-926-0491
Produced by Bonnie Thompson
Directed by Charles Laird
DVD, color, 88 min.

College - Adult
American Studies, Anthropology, Canadian Studies, Education, Multicultural Studies, Social Studies

Date Entered: 05/12/2005

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

During the late 1960’s, educational theorist Jerome Bruner and other social scientists developed an interdisciplinary program for upper elementary and middle school students. The result was Man: A Course of Study (MACOS), a yearlong curriculum of books, film and interactive games that focused on a remote Inuit tribe near Pelly Bay, Canada. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, the program reached its widest adoption in 1972, when over 400,000 students in the United States explored questions of culture and, within that context, the meaning of being human. Three years later, a storm of political controversy surrounding the project forced its withdrawal from school systems across the country. This compelling documentary is the multi-layered story of those involved in the making and eventual undoing of the MACOS program.

Effectively interweaving informative and often emotional interviews with film clips from the original series and archival footage from the ensuing dispute, the account of events is narrated by many of the key participants. The eyes through which the project and controversy are viewed thirty years later are those directly involved including the developers, detractors, teachers, students and the Inuit subjects themselves.

MACOS, a program intended to teach children to understand different cultures, ultimately failed for its own cultural and political reasons. This documentary, funded by the National Board of Canada, powerfully demonstrates that education; rather than being value-free is laden with meaning and, as one of the actors in this drama says, “fraught with peril.” Highly recommended.