In another Hitchcock movie, Rear Window (1954), a wheelchair-bound man (played by Jimmy Stewart) looks out his window and into the windows of neighbors. Trying to make sense of what he sees, he comes to believe that a man has killed his invalid wife. Recently, I watched part of the film in a room full of college freshmen stimulated not just to react to slam-bang action but to think and plan along with Stewart.
Thinking of True Grit and the need to teach patient watching and discernment, I'd also recommend some Westerns from the 1948-1962 period: That's after they had graduated from their childhood but before their descent into irony, America-hatred, and violence for violence's sake. Might as well start with some starring Jimmy Stewart and directed by Anthony Mann: Winchester 73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur, The Far Country, and The Man from Laramie. Director John Ford's Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance are brilliant.
If you're looking for cool-down activities during a hot summer, I'd also recommend High Noon and Shane, both box-office hits during the early years of that golden age of Westerns. French cinéastes love severe Westerns directed by Budd Boetticher, including The Tall T, Buchanan Rides Alone, Ride Lonesome, and Comanche Station, and for once they're not wrong. The classic era ended in 1962 with Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country.
Some of those titles suggest a solution to our problem of distractibility and running with the crowd: Our children need to ride the high country, even if they ride lonesome. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one opportunity during the school year to help kids gain discernment and learn to concentrate: God's World Publications, the parent company of WORLD, also publishes God's World News, six different monthly magazines that present current events for students from pre-K to high school.
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