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Reviewing the clips that survived the cut

March 31, 2005

JOSEPH N. BELL

I have a large manila envelope into which I stuff clippings from the

news that I think might make column fodder. When that envelope gets

too full, I dump it out, throw away or file the clips that are badly

dated, and start over again. Here are some of the items that survived

the latest cuts.

History teacher Dan Granite at Corona del Mar High School got into

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predictable trouble by showing his seventh-grade history class an

R-rated theatrical movie about Joan of Arc recently. I haven't seen

the movie, so I can't attest to its historical accuracy, but that

wasn't the main concern of the parental complaints, which focused on

scenes of graphic sex and violence. Sort of like "The OC" television

show.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees acted

with admirable speed to ban "R" rated movies from our public school

classrooms. But as long as the board is having a look at such

matters, I would suggest the members consider historical accuracy, as

well.. The only time I can remember having a real go with a teacher

was when my youngest daughter told me about a movie she had just seen

in her high school history class -- also at Corona del Mar -- in

which every country in the world to the left of J. Edgar Hoover was

painted bright red as communist, with new candidates blinking

ominously for entrance in the background.

I asked the teacher if this film was being shown as an example of

political propaganda, which would have been fine with me. When he

assured me it was being taught as factually accurate, I demanded and

got a review of the film by school authorities, and it was banished.

But a lot of other movies that were less politically motivated but

just as inaccurate continued to be shown. God knows, for example, how

many American kids got their information about Gen. George Custer

from Errol Flynn's portrayal of him in "Custer's Last Stand." Or of

the Vietnam War from "The Deer Hunter."

I once watched a heated and acrimonious debate in the press room

at the Academy Awards between Jane Fonda -- who had just won the best

actress award for "Coming Home" -- and Michael Cimino, whose "The

Deer Hunter" had just won best picture. Fonda was furious with Cimino

for the liberties he had taken with well-established truth about

Vietnam. Cimino didn't deny the inaccuracies but rather defended them

on the basis of creative freedom. For that reason alone, I would urge

school officials to concern themselves not only with pillage and rape

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