In case you didn't know, Eastwood and Spielberg co-produced the Eastwood-directed films Flags of our Fathers (in theatres now) and Letters from Iwo Jima, set to hit theatres next year. Both stories chronicle the battle for the all-too-important Pacific island of Iwo Jima in the peak of the WWII battle between the home of Mount Rushmore vs. the home of Mt. Fuji.
Their interest in WWII history (Eastwood with Iwo Jima and Spielberg with the Holocaust) is obvious. What's more obvious is their acknowledgement that some films are more important than a big opening weekend. (Read: some topics are more important than standardized tests!) Some films educate more than they entertain, thus they fill our brains more than they fill theatre seats.
Clint Eastwood made Westerns blockbusters with his Dirty Harry character. Steven Spielberg made the definition of a blockbuster with the Jaws series. Both are Hollywood legends. Both have multiple Oscar's. Both have directed classic films: Eastwood with Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, Spielberg with the Indiana Jones series (which will soon to be resurrected for a fourth installment), E.T. and Jurassic Park (among many, many others).
Eastwood and Spielberg no longer have anything to prove in Hollywood so I think it's time they focus their attention and interests in other directions. In America's classrooms. Both have helped shape Hollywood, but if I have anything to do with it over the next several years and decades, both will help shape the way the American public education system works and subsequently how America's youth will learn.
Think about it: Spielberg and Eastwood (and their top-notch writers, including Flags writer Paul Haggis of Crash and Million Dollar Baby fame) could get with the Houghton-Mifflins and Addison-Wesleys and McGraw-Hills of the textbook publishing world (along with the academics) and re-write history books and even make DVDs for each classroom. Dreamworks, 20th Century Fox, Universal and all the other big studios could distribute the DVDs at a flat-reduced rate (with tax incentives) and the directors, writers and actors could further boost their profiles and impact on society since they seem to take themselves for politicians and leaders anyway.
We could have people like Bono, Angelina Jolie and Bill Bryson teaming up to teach foreign policy and international relationship through in-class videos, along with teaming up with textbook writers to find more interesting ways to pique students' interest. This is a limitless idea once you get going...
This is my lineup for who helps to teach/write the textbooks for each subject:
Political science - Warren Beatty (Reds, Bullworth), Arnold Schwarzenegger (who is being one hell of a Governor for California these days, truth be told) and Bill Clinton
Economics - Warren Buffett (world's second-wealthiest man) and Richard Branson (a smarter, less annoying version of Donald Trump)
Journalism - Jon Stewart and Katie Couric
Music - Pharrell, Alicia Keys and John Mayer, all sing, play instruments and win Grammys
Sports - Steve Nash, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi, and the list goes on and on...
Driving Instruction - Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick
Creative Writing - Paul Haggis, Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, Studio 60 creator) and Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Points, Blink author)
Public Speaking - Oprah and Barack Obama (unless Clinton passes on poli sci for something easier)
Foreign Languages - Lucy Liu, Zhang Ziyi, Eva Mendes, Eva Longoria and any other "beautiful women that know other languages" could teach to the boys; Gael Garcia Bernal could teach Spanish to the girls and Kobe Bryant could teach Italian to the women. Shit, we cuold even get some ESL action going with the San Antonio Spurs (Ginobili, Parker,etc.)
Life Skills - Dr. Phil and Jay-Z
I even think we could get people like Ellen DeGeneres, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, and the casts of Entourage (including Emmanuelle Chriqui and Samaire Armstrong) to teach things like comedy, dance, music production and acting.
Obviously, I don't cover the maths and sciences, but those are areas where there aren't any readily-available and well-informed celebrities to connect with the kids.
Now I know you think I'm joking around, but I'm dead-serious the way Tiger Woods is dead-serious about breaking Jack Nicklaus' records. I think this system could work.
The main factors are: cost, relevance, support, evaluation.
Well, the studios and publishers could handle the cost for production if the federal government gives some nice tax breaks and the actors/writers/directors would end up looking like fools for not contributing for free.
Half of the kids in America don't know much about history, literature and the arts anyway so why not have people like Spielberg and Kanye and Oprah take a stab at connecting with today's youth ... we can always change the textbooks and videos every so often to keep up with the times.
Once the textbooks and videos are created, we could create all kinds of reward systems to support the program including the opportunity meet the celebrities through essay contests (for grades, no doubt) and team projects and all sorts of things like that. This will greatly encourage "C students who don't have incentive to make As" to step it up, thus, decreasing the gap between over-achievers and under-achievers.
As for evaluation, I don't think you can put standardized tests behind this kind of system. In today's age, kids learn more about WWII from a two-hour movie than two years of classes. Non-English-speaking kids learn English faster watching movies (with subtitles) and music videos than they do from some classes. And it's no surprise kids remember what happened on last week's episode of O.C. or Laguna Beach more than they remember what they were quizzed on last week in chemistry class. I was a straight-A student and I can still say, with full confidence, that I learned more about the Civil Rights Movement, WWII, American literature, and a number of things from movies and documentaries more than academic textbooks. Long story short, I don't doubt we'll have positive results.
And what about the violence in movies or the cursing and negative messages in music? Look no further than any inner-city school in America, or Columbine or an Amish school to find those same, yet very real, occurences.
So...Clint, Steven...you in?