Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Movie Favorites - Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

~ Dad always used to say the only causes worth fighting for were the lost causes.~


The story of Jefferson Smith, an idealistic young man from an unnamed state who is a local hero for having organized various boys’ camps while helping run the “Boy Rangers.” The Rangers are an educational,
outdoors and sports organization that is similar to the Boy Scouts of today.
After one of his state’s two Senators dies, Jeff is appointed to be the temporary replacement Senator by the state’s Governor. Soon, Jeff takes off for Washington in the company of the states other Senator, Joe Paine, who is a hero of Jeff’s and was a friend of his father. Jeff has high hopes, and is just grateful to be able to serve in the city he associates with the democratic ideals of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Yet soon after arriving, Jeff quickly realizes that Washington is a mean-spirited and often corrupt town, and that in fact, Senator Paine is one of the most corrupt people there.

After trying to write a law that would set aside some land at Wilet Creek for a national boy’s camp, Jeff accidentally discovers that this land has been secretly bought by Taylor and his political machine. He does this so that he can make a huge amount of money when he sells the land to the state after convincing it to
build a dam there. Yet rather than stay quiet , Jeff decides to fight both Senator Paine and Taylor in order to save the land for his camp and to expose the horrible corruption of his state’s politicians. Soon, the entire Taylor machine sets out to destroy Jeff and his reputation, but with the help of Clarissa Saunders, Jeff
fights back against long odds. He does so in order to save both his own reputation and to live up to the original ideals of American democracy.  (http://www.eslnotes.com/)

Although this movie is best suited to a US History or Civics class, I will show excerpts from this film in my science classes especially environmental science courses.  The movie provides great insight into the difficulties faced by individuals and groups who desire to create positive change against a political machine that serves special interests and individual greed.  However, the idea of the power of one man speaking out against such corruption is also a valuable lesson for students to understand.  That an idea married to passion can promote great response. That an idea concieved and believed in can be achieved.  

Civics and History teachers will find that the film provides tremendous insight into the inner working of the US Senate, The process of passing a bill, special interest groups, committees, the election process, succession and many others. 

The film also provides a look at Washington DC through the innocent eyes of an individual who still holds the basic ideals of this country as the most important principles upon which to base one'e life, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

~ I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain,
ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out
for the other fella, too.~

No comments: