Learning from “Remember the Titans” – the Civil Rights Movement Remembered; Lesson Plan Materials Re-Published by TeachWithMovies.com

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TeachWithMovies.com announces the re-publication of its popular Learning Guide to “Remember the Titans”. It was only 40 years ago, but Americans didn’t know if whites and blacks could play together on the same high school football team. This film is remarkably accurate in its portrayal of how the coaches and players pulled together and overcame centuries of racial hostility. The newly re-published TWM Learning Guide provides details not shown in the movie to help teachers take the events of the story off the screen and place them firmly in reality, along with discussion questions and assignments.

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TeachWithMovies.com provides Lesson Plans & Learning Guides to over 350 films.

The movie (Remember the Titans) takes its viewers through three intertwined stories of the triumph of people of goodwill in daunting circumstances.

It’s 1971 in Alexandria, Virginia. High school football is the town's most popular sport. The school board is under court order to integrate the public schools -- both students and faculty. The board demotes the white man who is scheduled to lead one of its high school football teams, appointing a black man in his place. Many of the newly admitted black students are going to make the starting team. Some students, white and black, who expected to be starters, will be relegated to the bench. Tensions are high.

Teachers will get buy-in for the movie because it focuses on conflict turning to lifelong friendship between two of the teenage major characters: the white team captain, High School All-American, Gerry Bertier and the immensely talented black player, Julius Campbell. The Learning Guide, based on exhaustive research in secondary and some primary sources, will assist social studies teachers in giving students a vivid picture of the tensions in the country over civil rights, only 40 years ago.

An example is the first time that the team is together. The team is gathered in front of the school waiting for the buses to take them to summer training camp. Two buses arrive and the students separate by race: one bus for white players and another for blacks. The new head coach Herman Boone makes the students get off the buses and re-enter, with blacks and whites sharing seats. His most important pairing is Bertier and Campbell, who seethe at each other on the cramped bus seat. This scene closely follows real events.

The movie takes its viewers through three intertwined stories of the triumph of people of goodwill in daunting circumstances. The first story is that of the two coaches. Head coach Boone, given responsibility for a team filled with angry players, both black and white, must navigate treacherous waters. Coach Yoast, for the sake of students he has known for years, accepts his situation and becomes a loyal member of Boone's staff. The two men, although they have different coaching styles, are united in their desire to do what's best for the students and to create a winning team. Over the year, they become good friends.

The second triumph is the story of the two key players, Bertier and Campbell. Coach Boone requires that they bunk together at training camp. The boys get beyond their initial hostility and forge a friendship that is an example for the rest of the team.

The third uplifting story is that of the team itself. Responding to the leadership of Boone, Yoast, Bertier, and Campbell, the players come together as a unit despite the racial hatred roiling the community around them. The Titans become a model of integration for a city in troubled times.

The TWM Learning Guide for “Remember the Titans” provides the scholarship that will allow teachers to tell students that these stories accurately reflect what occurred, sometimes down to the very words used by the participants.

In addition, the Guide provides historical details not shown in the movie that will to take the story out of the realm of Hollywood and place it firmly in reality. For example, the movie shows a rock being thrown through the front room window of Coach Boone’s house. In fact, it wasn't a rock, it was a toilet filled with human excrement. Racists get nasty when things don’t go their way. Another important circumstance, again not told in the movie, is that Coach Boone bought a house in a previously all-white neighborhood and moved there with his family. His new neighbors tried to buy him out at a profit, a story told for the Youngers, a fictional Chicago family in the classic play, “A Raisin in the Sun.” However, it was lived by Coach Boone and probably many others across the nation. Like the Youngers, the coach declined the offer.

Recounting these and other facts that occurred but which were not included in the movie, takes the events of the film, off the screen and into reality.
The educational value of showing students an America that they can hardly imagine, but that existed just a few short decades ago, is immense.

TeachWithMovies.com is the premier site on the Internet showing teachers how to use feature films and other video resources to enhance the classroom experience. The site offers thousands of pages of lesson plans and curriculum materials on more than 350 feature films. The price for access to all TWM curriculum materials is $11.99 per year per teacher. Discounts are available for bulk purchases.

Sources: More than ten contemporary magazine and newspaper articles and web sites, including printed interviews with Coaches Boone and Yoast. In addition, Coach Yoast vetted the entire helpful background contained in the Guide for accuracy.

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James Frieden
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