Sunday, April 15, 2012

oceans, birth control, and evolution (oh my)

Documentaries we watched this week:

Aliens of the Deep
Directed by James Cameron (the Titanic Guy). This was beautifully filmed and very interesting. I liked that JC kept the deep sea scientists talking about complicated issues in a laid back, easy going and organic conversation throughout the movie. The scientists themselves were incredibly likable and humble, and I loved that they would practically jump up and down inside their cramped submersibles when they were excited about something. They are wonderful examples of passion and education, and the ninth grader didn't seem bored or baffled even once (this is unusual) during the length of the DVD. Highly recommend.

The Education of Shelby Knox
Summary from POV: The swift rise in federally funded, abstinence-only sex education under the Bush administration is in the headlines today, sparking an intense national debate about our responsibility to teach teens the facts of life. Those supporting an abstinence-only approach say that teaching anything but abstinence just encourages teens to experiment with sex. Opponents say that withholding information about condom use and birth control will only lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.Into the culture wars steps 15-year-old Shelby Knox of Lubbock, Texas. A self-described "good Southern Baptist girl," Knox herself has pledged abstinence until marriage. When she finds that Lubbock has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the state, and her county's high schools teach abstinence as the only safe sex, she becomes an unlikely advocate for comprehensive sex education, profoundly changing her political and spiritual views along the way. "I think that God wants you to question," Shelby says, "to do more than just blindly be a follower, because he can't use blind followers. He can use people like me who realize there's more in the world that can be done." Here is a story for our times, where the combustible mix of politics, family and faith aren't as predictable as the red state/blue state divide would suggest.

     This is an interesting and timely documentary. Shelby is a Texas girl with a questioning brain, Christian upbringing and supportive family. After finding out about some shocking teen pregnancy and STD statistics for her town, she wants to know why her high school only teaches abstinence and campaigns for a more in-depth sex ed curriculum.  She is honest about the natural desires and pressures teens have today, and she comes across as heroic. I thought she was a terrific role model for my daughters, and I appreciated this documentary as valuable input in my ongoing discussion with my kids about sex.
     This hasn't really got anything to do with this documentary, but I had the Dixie Chicks song "Lubbock or leave it" in my head during the whole DVD, and I kept thinking what it must have been like for Natalie Maines to grow up there. You're an interesting place, Lubbock, Texas.

     Speaking of interesting places, the last DVD my daughter and I watched this week was called Kansas Vs. Darwin.  This movie covers a controversy that came to a head before we moved here.  I have had occasion in the short time we've lived in Kansas to hear locals talking about the school board hearings, but I wanted a closer look and was happy to find this at the library. This documentary is the weakest of the three we watched this week. The directing is somewhat uneven, and the sound is rough. I could hardly hear some of the dialogue because music was being played so loudly over some of the interviews. The pacing was a problem for me, it seemed like the directors made a point over and over when it could have been made once or twice.  I just looked at the official website and it says the movie is only 82 minutes. Hard to believe, frankly, this movie seemed loooong. So. The movie itself is a little rough. 
     The subject matter is another story. Three school board subcommittee members wanted the Theory of Evolution to stop being taught as fact and Intelligent Design to be signed off as legitimate curriculum. Cue the madness. The teachers and scientists for Evolution were so angry they refused to show up to the hearing, but lucky for them an excellent attorney took their case (good thing SOMEONE showed up to argue their side). 
     The entire event could stand as exhibit A for why separation of church and state is an excellent idea. I get the religious argument, if only because I grew up hearing various versions of Intelligent Design touted as Truth, Period.  However. Feeling strongly about something has never, ever made it true. Wanting something to be true doesn't make it true, otherwise I would be a triathlete who bottles her own award winning tomato sauce and owns a local book/tea/yarn shop. It sounds lovely, and oh how I want it, but it isn't actually true. Feelings don't equal facts. This is what the argument boils down to, in my opinion. Group A feels very, very strongly that something is true, Group B says, nope, you can't prove that, and if you can't prove it, you shouldn't teach it. Rock and a hard place. 
     I wish I could say I loved this documentary, or that it moved or shocked or enlightened me, but I would only recommend it if you are a student of this specific controversy, or maybe if you have no idea what the fuss is all about, this could be a starting place. Evolution vs. Intelligent Design is an incredibly important argument and I think it deserves a better documentary than this one. 

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