I actually remember watching a series of MACOS films in 7th grade social studies. Over the course of several class periods our teacher provided both context as well as some critical troubling of the approach. Before we ever watched a film, she framed not only how we should view these films, but how we should not view them. I remember her drawing specific attention to our place as Americans and how that identity and the position it affords colors how we see things. I remember recognizing that she was speaking to us in a way that she hadn’t before. And to my recollection, that no other teacher had either. There was something in her manner and tone of voice. She was expecting something of us that we didn’t fully understand, but it was clear she felt it was important to say these things to us and that we try to get to where she was asking us to go. It felt a bit dangerous which made it both exciting and important that we get it right.
When we began watching the films, I remember sitting in our darkened classroom watching the films, jotting notes, and occasionally glancing at the classroom door to see if the principal was going to walk in and catch us learning something taboo. It’s interesting. I haven’t thought about this in decades. But in a very real way, she was providing a kind of critical theory scaffold to a bunch of 12 year olds at a time when developmentally we would be just on the cusp of being able to grasp anything as abstract as critical theory. Looking back now from my vantage point as a career educator and doctoral student, I have to give her major points for trying with 7th graders!
Turns out, there’s a MACOS lesson archive online at macosonline.org.