With all the negative things I have to say about mass media in general, you might think that I want all of us to hide in forest caves with no more than a quill pen and a few sheets of paper. T'ain't so. Occasionally I'll get wind of something coming out of the market-directed media that I find not only admirable, but useful. More specifically, I am convinced that we get closer every day to being able to build small, world class educational institutions simply from a building body of works. Works that can serve as superb tools for learning that depend neither on equally superb teachers to be effective nor on conventional textbooks or course-length curricula.
Seems to me that the new documentary about Allan Ginsberg's Howl is an excellent example. As this NY Times article lays out, this movie is itself (according to the author), not only literary criticism, but a solid introduction to what literary criticism is. Even, to some extent, to what it means to be a writer and to write well. Seems to me that a well-built five page teacher's guide to using this film should enable any basically competent teacher to get most kids over the age of twelve up to speed on these dynamics in six or seven hours of class time, including time to see the movie twice. In, let us remember, a way tied to enough emotionally rich stimulation to be considerably easier to retain than most pedagogy manages.
Add to this such resources as the much-discussed M.I.T. online materials initiative and sites such as Khan Academy, and we're well on our way to considerably attenuating our dependence on conventional schooling or the arduous, not entirely accepted approaches to home and community schooling available now.
Every day we get a little closer. We just need to learn to use these new resources and spread the word of what we find.