If you missed Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" at the cinema, you might be able to catch it at your local school sometime soon.
That's because copies of the movie will be distributed for free to all middle and high schools in the United States, both public and private, as soon as it's made available on DVD, the organization Participant Media announced this week.
Actually, schools will get a special DVD package that includes an "educator's guide" to help teachers develop lesson plans and engage students in discussion about Abraham Lincoln and that time period, a press release said.
The educational outreach is a joint project funded by Participant Media, an entertainment company, along with DreamWorks Pictures and Fox/Newscorp.
"As more and more people began to see the film, we received letters from teachers asking if it could be available in their classrooms," director and producer Steven Spielberg said in a press release. "We realized that the educational value that 'Lincoln' could have was not only for the adult audiences—who have studied his life in history books—but for young students in the classroom as well."
The announcement, of course, comes the week of Lincoln's birthday. It also comes as the nation is still in the midst of commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The Spielberg film, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, chronicles the president's efforts in early 1865 to win congressional support for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. (I won't spoil the surprise for those who haven't seen it by telling you what happens!)
How accurate "Lincoln" is from an historical perspective is no doubt a topic that could be debated, and debated, but I've seen a few articles suggesting that many historians see it as generally on target. (Here's one example, a Washington Post blog post based on interviews with historians gathered at a Lincoln forum in Gettysburg, Pa., last fall.)
I'm personally not qualified to judge its historic merits, though I can vouch for its dramatic impact, having seen the movie myself. I have to imagine viewing the film could well be a powerful springboard for lively discussion and debate in classrooms, and hopefully spark students to want to learn more for themselves.
I won't miss this opportunity to briefly mention EdWeek's coverage of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. In that package, we explored how schools are teaching about the conflict today, and how many educators are moving beyond textbooks and digging into primary sources to better understand the conflict.
Photo: Daniel Day-Lewis as President Abraham Lincoln, in a scene from "Lincoln." DreamWorks/Twentieth Century Fox/AP