Saturday, September 04, 2004

 

Textbook Bias, Part I

This is the first in a series of excerpts from Understanding Movies, 10th edition, by Louis Giannetti (Prentice Hall, 2005). The book was left in my office by its previous occupant, and I was flipping through it during office hours.

It was quite interesting until I got to the chapter on ideology, particularly the section on the "Left-Center-Right" model. Giannetti breaks the discussion down into sub-sections, and I'll be reproducing one a day here for your perusal.

The first section is entitled "Democratic Versus Hierarchical."

"Leftists tend to emphasize the similarities among people. [Hah!] We all eat about the same amount of food, breathe the same amount of air. Likewise, leftists believe that a society's resources should be distributed in roughly equal portions, as is implied in The Human Condition and Pixote. Authority figures are merely skilled managers and not intrinsically superior to the people they are responsible to. Important institutions should be publicly owned. In some societies, all basic industries such as banking, utilities, health, and education are operated for the equal benefit of all citizens. The emphasis is on the collective, the communal."

"Rightists emphasize the differences among people, insisting that the best and the brightest are entitled to a larger share of power and the economic pie than less productive workers, as is implied in Henry V. Authority should be respected. Social institutions are guided by strong leaders, not the rank-and-file or even average citizens. Most insititutions should be privately owned, with profit as the main incentive to productivity. The emphasis is on the individual and an elite managerial class."


Frankly, while I was expecting some sort of bias from someone in the ultra-left enclave which is film studies, this shocked the hell out of me. This bias is so blatant I really can't understand how Prentice-Hall let this book go to press.

And it's inaccurate. I particularly object to the idea that the left emphasizes similarities while the right emphasizes differences. The identity politics of the modern left and the desire among the right to avoid the sort of Balkanization this has caused should be reason enough to at least question this ridiculous blanket statement made by Giannetti.

This is just a taste of things to come, though. There are nine sub-sections in the "Left-Center-Right" section of the ideology chapter. Next up is one that should garner some comments from Rose (and maybe we can get someone from Butterflies and Wheels over here): "Environment Versus Heredity."


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