Documentaries may slant stories, but some news outlets do, too
One of my favorite tasks in teaching freshman composition to college students is engendering precisely the kind of critical thinking so elegantly on display in the June 2 article, "In 'docu-ganda' films, balance is not the objective." Too many students, in far too many situations, neither can nor will make the effort even to begin to think critically about what they've offered to or taken from their community's conversation.
There is one point I would add: Our media (the Web excepted) are, seemingly on a daily basis, concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer entities. These magnates too often veil ideological agendas. FOX News is an example (hardly the only one and hardly part of a list that is exclusively conservative), and the uncritical manufacture and consumption of the phrase "fair and balanced" places at risk both liberals and conservatives. The risk is that people such as my students will become convinced that they have engaged in critical thought when, in fact, they have become a party to its extermination.
There are consequences for those who run such a risk. The thoughtful community conversation I mentioned earlier is the stuff that flows through the circulatory system of our culture. Leaving this conversation to become anemic may turn our descendants into unthinking people our Founders would have fought, not embraced. That is another inconvenient truth.
Regarding the June 2 article on "docu-gandas": The trend toward activist films is neither new nor disturbing. Such Oscar- winning classics as Barbara Kopple's "Harlan County, USA" and Peter Davis's "Hearts and Minds," made in the 1970s, are highly political films with a strong point of view.
In this, documentary filmmakers are no different from some magazine journalists: No one seems to be wringing hands about the fact that Harper's or The American Spectator has a strong point of view. Like many documentarians, the editors of these magazines wear their politics on their sleeves. This has been a staple of journalism since the days of Thomas Paine.
What's truly frightening is that propaganda has become the norm at some allegedly balanced daily news outlets. I'd like to see the Monitor tackle that subject next.
John Funk's June 5 Opinion piece, "Pre-K success depends on teachers," entirely misses the point. What is needed most for pre-K children is a happy home life that affords them all that they need until they are thrown into the world of competition and stress. A young child of 4 years of age needs to be home with a mother or father who can and should teach, love, and play, and who should require nothing back but a happy, healthy young child who is grounded in childhood. We must quit pushing our children out for someone else to teach. That's best done by someone who loves them.
The link to the June 7 article, "A spice box and a cookbook got her started," was sent to me by a friend. It was a joy to read. It is very well written and rings true to a lot of people. I am from south India, and having come to the US as a student myself - with absolutely no knowledge of cooking and with a spice box tucked in my suitcase - I felt that the article's author wrote my story.
The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.
Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to Letters.