Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Carol

Has there ever been a story adapted for the screen (big or small) as Charles Dickens's classic A Christmas Carol?  A search on IMDB returned dozens of hits; I stopped counting after 40.  There are plenty of live action and musical versions, plus the Smurfs, Barbie, Flintstones, Mister Magoo, and the Muppets, and I'm sure many TV show episodes based on the story.

In this 1999 TNT version, surely one of the best adaptations made, Patrick Stewart's portrayal of Scrooge has to rival George C. Scott's from 1984.  I think Scott's Scrooge is the one I remember.  I haven't read Dickens's story in some time, but  this TNT version seems to have made an effort to capture Dickens's time and tone.  I would not be a bit surprised if much of the dialog was straight from the pages of Dickens.
That's the legendary Joel Grey as the Ghost of Christmas Past
A Christmas Carol, in whatever version, tells a wonderful story of second chances.  Although you will look fruitlessly for explicit references to salvation through Christ here, the message of the gospel is implicit throughout.  Even after a lifetime of hard-heartedness and self-centeredness, there is hope for renewal and reconciliation.  Scrooge's nephew personifies the openness of the gospel: even when Scrooge is at his worst, his nephew persists with unconditional love and acceptance.

This Christmas, let's remember the Scrooges among us.  Those neighbors, coworkers, and even family members who live bitter, lonesome lives need to see the love and grace offered through us by the one who came to seek and to save us.  It's never too late to accept Jesus' love, and it's never too soon to share it.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Including Samuel

Last week I attended a screening of Including Samuel with Kelly and Elliot.  It was shown at a local elementary school and moderated by our friend Jennifer, who has attended ARDs with Kelly and assisted her tirelessly with paperwork and ARD preparation.  Including Samuel addresses the challenges of including children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms, a topic that is near and dear to us as we have struggled to get Chloe placed at school.

Samuel is the son of photojournalist and filmmaker Dan Habib.  When Samuel was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, he was forced to face the issue of inclusion, a topic about which he hadn't thought much about before.  Habib follows Samuel's progress, as we see Samuel interacting with his peers at school and participating in the regular education classroom.  The Habibs are fortunate to live near a school whose philosophy of full inclusion accommodates students of varying levels of disability in a single classroom.
Samuel interacts with typical classmates.
Besides Samuel, we meet hip-hop artist Keith Jones, an inspiring adult with cerebral palsy who has not let his disability prevent him from a full life, including working as a music producer, marrying and having children, and functioning independently.  He says the best thing to have happened to him was to be placed in regular education classes, not segregated classes.  Other individuals featured in the film illustrate the clear benefits of full inclusion for both the disabled and their typical peers.
Keith Jones--one inspiring guy!
Habib doesn't try to sugar coat the difficulties that arise with inclusion.  In teacher interviews, we see the range of opinions and emotions, from Samuel's teacher, who believes that full inclusion is the best way for all  children to learn, regardless of speech or mobility problems, to the mainstream teacher who tearfully describes the challenges of reaching both the superbly gifted and the profoundly disabled at the same time.  As one teacher points out, however, the danger of creating separate classrooms for disabled children is that if there is a separate classroom, it will be used, needed or not.

Given our experience with schools which have not practiced inclusion, this quote hit way too close to home: "Inclusion is an easy thing to do poorly.  When we do it poorly, we become convinced that it cannot work."  Even when one parent or one teacher promotes inclusion, a simplistic approach of placing a child with disabilities in a mainstream classroom without adequate support or appropriate modifications can lead to failure.  I fear that in many schools, poor execution has led to suspicion or outright rejection of full inclusion.

While Including Samuel does not provide all the answers, the film does a great service by raising lots of questions, and, most importantly, raising the possibility that full inclusion can and does work.