A review of a book on The Economist used this photograph of John Wayne, playing the role of Ethan Edwards, from the film The Searchers. A brilliant still from a brilliant performance from a brilliant film.
This particular scene comes from the part of the film in which Wayne's character realizes that his brother's family, the only family he has, has likely been killed in an ambush. That ambush is the tragedy that starts a years-long quest which is the story this film chronicles.
I've periodically come across moments and images that remind me of how much I love history and miss teaching it this year. I had a few opportunities to watch this film with my American History students, and those opportunities meant a lot to me.
There exists a stereotype that Social Studies teachers rely too often on film as a way to spend time with our classes. Of course students seem to want you to put on a video (though I had a student recently admit that videos bore her and strike her as just an excuse to zone out). If I am to use the precious, limited time I have with students to show a video, it needs to be educationally worthwhile, something the students are unlikely to watch on their own, and something that I can help them draw meaning from. A film needs to begin a conversation rather than conclude one. To that end, I've found the following films very powerful to show in class:
The Best Years of Our Lives - a better-than-expected time capsule for students to understand post-World War II America
Dear America - it's a 90-minute long primary document . . . and students cannot get enough of it
Glory - a great tool for showing the power of enlisting black troops into the cause of fighting succession
High Noon - a very powerful allegory for the challenges of conducting foreign policy as a superpower