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The Matrix and Critical Consciousness

Paidea, Greek for "critical consciousness," is perhaps the most important thing an educator can instill in students, Princeton scholar and Matrix film trilogy actor Cornel West told a rapt crowd at Columbia University's Miller Theater.

West shared his insights about race, society and film on March 26 in a program entitled "Film & Education: The Matrix of the Possible." The Matrix, he said, is about learning to hold yourself accountable.

The evening was produced by the Film & Education Research Academy (FERA), and featured West in a dialogue with TC doctoral student Kelvin Sealey. FERA, a research, publishing and teaching project within the Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation, was founded by Sealey and John Broughton, Associate Professor of Psychology and Education.

In addition to talking about paidea and the idea he attributes to Brazilian educator Paolo Freire of the "conscientization" of students, West lodged his views on a range of topics, with clips selected by Sealey from seminal Hollywood films-including Network (1976), Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Bullworth (1998)-acting as visual touchstones throughout the discussion. After their dialogue, Sealey and West fielded questions from the audience.

West eagerly discussed Mel Gibson's controversial The Passion of The Christ, which he described as "Rambo on the cross." He also expounded on the much-debated idea of cultural responsibility in the context of that film and criticism levied against it for being anti-Semitic. West, though he had not seen the film, viewed it as having failed to recognize the responsibility of the imperial elite, in this case the Roman Empire, for the death of Jesus. The metaphor, he argued, applies to modern society, especially in America, where there is scant acknowledgment of the influence our own elite class has over society.


"The Matrix of the Possible: A Conversation with Cornel West" with Multimedia (Inside TC Newsletter, April 2004)

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