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Five Lessons from McFarland, USA

McFarland, USA is much more than just a sports movie. It's a feel-good movie, but it's more than that, too.

After I first watched it with my wife, I knew I wanted my students to see it. The story, based on the the fabulous Gary Smith's 11 year-old Sports Illustrated story "Running For Their Lives," is now on my top-five film list.

Here are five lessons I want my students to take from McFarland USA:

  1. la familia: The importance of family as a primary motive is beautifully portrayed.

  2. Empathy: I want my financially-gifted students who struggle with grade, test score and college admission stresses to empathize with kids who struggle with stresses of an entirely different kind.

  3. Psychic Income: Not every job or career should be pursued only by the dollar figure attached to it. Coach Jim Smith worked for an income that transcended salary.

  4. "It's whom you're with": One of life's great truths is that if you're with the wrong people (or no people) even Earth's most beautiful places won't be a happy places. But if you're with the right people, people who adopt you as family, any place can be beautiful, happy and home.

  5. Machiavellian leadership: Particularly the ends justify the means. Sometimes I believe in it. In this case, only one of my students had watched McFarland, USA. After I offered them an opportunity for extra credit points, half of them have. I'd prefer it not be that way, but I knew that they wouldn't have watched it without the bribe. They would have missed out on a movie that has the potential to positively affect and even change them.

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