American Film

When was the last time you discussed a movie with a child? Here's a reminder – in case we needed one – that the moral universe of children can be shaped by the movies they see (but not always in the ways we expect). Robert Coles, a MacArthur Fellowship holder and child psychiatrist long affiliated with Harvard University, wrote "Seeing Is Not Believing," which appeared in the May 1986 issue of American Film. He describes his conversations with young people about TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, DIRTY HARRY and STAR WARS. What's impressive here, beyond the lucid prose, is Cole's capacity for surprise. He thinks about what these young people tell him; he doesn't prejudge. And he makes us realize that our conversations about movies with young people, quite as much as the movies themselves, will help develop their sense of right and wrong.