I have thoughts about this film, but I encourage you to watch it for yourself before reading on. It's only 7 minutes long.
Back when I was a freshman in college sitting in a large lecture hall--with a hundred or more other freshmen--taking a Western Civ course, our professor said something that has stuck with me through the intervening decades: "The arts are the mirror of a culture." I would say that this rings true in my life and experience. And this film seems to be holding up the mirror to contemporary education culture. There are several things in here that I think are perhaps hyperbole or satire...but hyperbole and satire can be ways of bringing the truth into focus. If you've viewed the film, I hope you'll take a moment to comment about your perceptions of the truth--or falsehood--this film portrays. (I won't be offended either way; I'm in no way connected to this film.)
As I viewed, I was reminded of several things I've read in the past month or two about colleges and universities making sure that "school is a safe place for all to learn"...which, in this case, seems to be a euphemism for "don't make anyone too uncomfortable by requiring them to think critically about hard things." Now that might be a little nasty of me, but I do think this is something we need to think about and talk about. What is the purpose of school anyway? Are they places where learning is to happen? Because learning is often uncomfortable as we are stretched to understand new things.
Or is school merely a place for acculturation and credentialing?
Our society is increasingly postmodern and pluralistic. In this setting, all beliefs are set up to be equal, and the only virtue left is "tolerance" of the views and feelings of others. And if my Western Civ prof was right, this film is mirroring this back to us: the protagonist is castigated and punished for his role as an "intolerant sinner."
I may hold different beliefs than some of my fellow postmodern North Americans, but I want more than just tolerance. I want to understand them, and have them understand me. We may disagree with each other--because reasonable people will sometimes disagree--but that does not mean we have to disrespect each other. And, really, that is what I see as the issue here: culturally, we seem to be equating tolerance of the other with agreement. Do you see the problem with that?
The honest truth: I think setting the bar at "tolerance" actually breeds contempt.
Just one example: I can "tolerate" people who have very different political views than I hold without agreeing with them. (I picked politics as one easy example; it might happen with anyone who holds a different perspective on a whole range of issues, from religious beliefs, to the value of scientific discoveries, to the football team you support, to your view of education.) I may be seething under the surface every time they post something on social media or make a comment in conversation about what "we believe." Over time, these comments add up, and while I can "tolerate" them...I grow angry every time, and eventually that anger gives way to bitterness, and bitterness to contempt. And then, I start to wonder: am I really "tolerating" them at all? I have pigeonholed them into a particular category that is "other" than me, and I at least roll my eyes internally with every comment they make; I have moved from outward tolerance to inward contempt.
Tolerance is not enough. We need to strive for understanding. And, while seeking understanding, we also need to recognize that understanding is still not the same as agreeing. I believe that school should be a place where we encounter the "other"--other perspectives, other philosophies, other practices. But I believe we should be fostering more than just a "tolerance" of the other. We should welcome thinking, discernment, and--dare I say it?--care for people, things, and ideas that are "other" to us.
What do you think?