Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Book Review: The Film Club

Gilmour, David (2008). The Film Club: A memoir. New York: Twelve.

Photo source (and another good review): Zawan

David Gilmour is a Canadian writer and film critic who shares a name with the guitarist for rock legend Pink Floyd. The Film Club is a memoir about a deal he made with his son and an unusual home-schooling strategy. Gilmour allows his son to drop out of school with caveats:

  • They will watch a minimum of three movies a week together. (Gilmour is unemployed at the time.)
  • All bets are off if there is even the hint of drug use.

Some of the reviewers on LibraryThing seem a little dismayed that a noted film critic could write a whole book without discussing a single film in depth. But this book is not about the films they watched together—the discussion of the films serves only to illustrate Gilmour’s teaching method, not as an exhaustive curriculum or instructional paradigm— it is about the relationship that develops between a father and son as they explore life. It is about being there for your kid, something I was not that good at. It is about winning by losing, holding on by letting go, and learning through freedom.

The strength of the book is that Gilmour does not gloss over his own misgivings or mistakes. Nor does he hide the bad choices his son Jesse makes. This is an honest, at time brutally so, tale of growing up and making choices.

As an instructional designer, I believe that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Gilmour had the courage to allow Jesse to make mistakes and to provide only enough of a safety net to help the boy survive them. That isn’t an easy path to follow in a classroom full of strangers, and it would be that much harder to follow with your own offspring. I would not have been able to.

Gilmour’s choices are not for everyone. Jesse’s choices, good and bad, are similar to those made by many young people. The book is the story of how they come to survive together and Jesse learns to stand on his own. It is well-written and hard to put down.

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