While the students have been working on their research papers and getting their presentation boards prepared at home, in class they have been working on their roles in the Pullman debates to take place on Monday. We have talked about the central conflict of capital and labor as primary theme after the Civil War. The Pullman strike is a perfect nexus of all the interested and vested parties in this conflict. Giving each party a voice at the table always guarantees a lively and engaged debate.
So after they all seemed to be wrapping up their plans for the debate, and there was only a short period of time before the class was over, I put Modern Times on for all to see. GT, who is playing Pullman, said, “Hey, they should call it Old Times.”
When Charlie Chaplin is used as a guinea pig in a feeding machine (see above), a machine intended to keep the worker working right through lunch, the students were on the floor. “A most capital idea,” commented FG, who is playing the role of Attorney General Olney, responsible for the injunction which eventually got Eugene Debs arrested.
It’s amazing that 75 years later, Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times still summons such guffaws of laughter, even from 8th graders who claim they are way too sophisticated. The magical ability of Chaplin’s artistry to evoke great humor while simultaneously making a deep and profound statement about the relationship between man and machine, between labor and capital, is stunning.
We’ve only watched the first 15 minutes. The students are begging me to see the rest.