Martin Luther King Jr. Day musings
I went to see Selma this weekend. The story of some of the earliest days of the civil rights movement in this country was moving — one that would inspire all but the coldest heart.
I pondered that Gov. Doug Ducey just proposed that civics education be enhanced in Arizona and considered that one could hardly find a more fitting subject for the civics curriculum than the study of the civil rights movement and how a flawed democracy righted itself through courageous civic action.
Wouldn’t a movie like Selma be a worthwhile part of such a curriculum?
Well, telling this inspiring story in high schools would likely be illegal in Arizona since the state has prohibited including in the curriculum anything that would make people think bad thoughts about white people (and no fair minded person can watch Selma without thinking ill of white people, or at least a whole lot of white people). Yup, under existing guidelines, the Arizona political correctness police in the state’s Department of Education could never permit a film like Selma to be used in an Arizona classroom — the kiddies might think bad thoughts, even though they would be based on incontrovertible historical facts.
I read the list of prospective civics literacy questions that could become a requirement for graduation under the governor’s civics requirement. The questions were not especially inspiring.
One could score 100 percent on these questions and still not have a clue about how our government really operates. While it might be nice to know that there are exactly 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, I am not sure that knowing this precise number ought to be a priority.
After watching this movie, I thought of two good civics test questions:
1. Name five ways black voters were kept from voting in the South in 1964.
2. Name five ways black and brown citizens are kept from voting in 2015.
The means are more subtle and we now suppress the vote less completely than 50 years ago, but the objectives remain the same.
An aside: Jeers to the King family who claimed a copyright to Dr. King’s speeches preventing the film from using his actual words. Boo! You might have a legal right, but the moral ownership of those words belong to history.
A notable exception: When Dr. King quoted directly from the Bible. I guess either there is no copyright owner to the Bible or, perhaps, unlike the King family, she consented.
Cheers to the scriptwriters who were able to craft fictitious language that adhered to the spirit and feel of the actual language without being able to use it. I know the actual material well enough to know that their efforts succeeded.