Policy at the Movies
The purpose of this chapter is to discuss ways to learn at the movies. Although the traditional medium through which students learn about political ideas, issues, and concepts may be reading texts and listening to lectures, it is not the only way. The effort to create an active learning environment in the classroom emphasizes the construction of avenues through which students can engage material and gain ownership over their own learning. The use of documentaries and news segments, and even movie clips, in class from time to time as a way to introduce or highlight a point or concept to students is not an uncommon practice. Video can be a useful instrument to help make something real to students and to engage them in an unintimidating way and thus can contribute to helping create an active learning environment.
What is perhaps less common is to use movies as one of the primary “texts” of a course.1 I shall discuss some of the pedagogy behind “learning at the movies” and report on such a course that I constructed, focusing on issues and concepts in U.S. foreign and national security policy. I also discuss how the students and I have evaluated the course. The chapter appendix includes some additional movie ideas for U.S. foreign policy topics; it includes release dates and running times.