We showed the The Most Dangerous Man film in our American Studies class as the ending to our introductory unit on “How we know what we know.” The course is thematic, and so we start our study by reading several different case studies throughout U.S. history and discuss how facts are ascertained and used in history. Questions like “what is truth?” dominate our discussion.
We watched the film along with our reading of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” As a result, we used Dan Ellsberg’s journey from Vietnam War architect to peace activist as an illustration of the prisoners in the cave watching the shadows and then being lifted up to the light. The kids found Ellsberg’s journey to be both compelling and moving in that light. We centered our discussion on the main points of the journey of an educated person as laid out by Plato. We asked them the question as to what one’s responsibility is when they see “the light” with regard to helping others see as well or to simply go about their lives.
The discussion among the class was compelling. It was clear to them why people would choose to do nothing (i.e. Senator Fulbright), but it was equally compelling to see Ellsberg’s example of risking jail to do the right thing. What an amazing discussion!