Segments in this Video

Through These Eyes (02:21)


Curriculum developer Peter Dow recounts the Curriculum Reform Movement late 1960s. Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner explains how the MACOS (Man A Course of Study) program attempted to change how American students viewed culture via documentary films of native Canadian peoples in Arctic regions.

Tampering with Conventional Wisdom About Social Sciences (01:45)

Anthropology attempts to understand the nature of a culture. Ethnographer Asen Balikci captured a year in the life of a Netsilik Eskimo family and changed the face of anthropology.

Asen Balikci (02:08)

Ethnographer Balikci recalls the purpose and aspirations of the film project--to oppose racism and ethnocentrism in America. He discusses how the scientific (versus sociological) view of culture created a controversy that was not anticipated.

Directly Engaging Children (03:32)

Balikci reconnects with cinematographer Bob Young. Jerome Bruner hoped if children understand the origins of humanity, children will create a more humane way of life. The ultimate goal was to take school children to the frontiers of research.

Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay) Nunavut (03:15)

Film footage was to provide an experience in the class room as close to what the ethnographer experienced. Return to the film location with Balikci. See migrating herds of caribou and footage of the local people. Balikci explains the film was following Rasmussen’s 1922 account of Pelly Bay and Balikci sought to capture that lifestyle on film.

Sidonie Nirlungayak (04:06)

Hear a local woman remember her film experience. Sidonie explains how it was unfathomable to think their way of life would ever change. Guy Kakkiankum remembers being filmed by Balikci. View film footage of fishermen showing Guy clad in fur, spearfishing.

Put the Camera Where The Story Is (05:07)

Film footage shows s child feasting on eyeballs from a freshly caught fish. Bob explains how this was designed to make children viewing the film become tiny anthropologists. Seal hunting on the sea ice captured on film in close, bloody detail proves to be controversial.

Change (01:32)

This was a brand new film and educational concept, one without narrative. Barthelemy Nirlingayak recalls how and when his lifestyle began to change. He recounts how the pace of life sped up with the introduction of modern conveniences.

How MACOS Touched One Educator (01:44)

See educator Cemmy Peterson in archival footage asking school children how they came to hold their particular values and culture. She iterates the importance of children comparing their own lives to a society different from their own.

Creating a Better World (02:28)

Children struggle to understand their own experiences. Looking at other experiences serves as a mirror to see themselves. Hear how observing the Netsilik could serve to help children understand their own contexts in a way that helps them improve society.

Reenactments (01:53)

Agnes Irkowagtok reunites with Balikci, who explains to Agnes and her daughter Dolorosa Nartok how the films were dropped in the United States because of the violence and bloody seal kills. The re-enactments were true to the culture of their daily lives and Dolorosa says, "That's how we lived."

Opposition to Viewing Daily Lives of the Netsilik (02:21)

Arizona Congressman John B. Conlan refuted the appropriateness of fifth graders viewing what he perceived to be immoral and violent material funded by the government. Conlan also claimed this film took too much time away from traditional schooling, specifically American history.

Relativism (03:15)

Conlan suggested the film was an attempt to insert secular relativism. The seal hunt portion of the film was alleged to be horrifying to the children. Former students recall the graphic nature of the hunt as thrilling, not terrifying. Conlan's camp claimed the films traumatized children.

Alex Ittimangnak (04:39)

Alex, a child from the original film shown in traditional furs reunites with Balikci. Jody, a former student, remembers the happy boy (Alex) from the film fondly. Scenes of totems and caribou are shown from the original film.

Open Minds (03:29)

View news footage showing Peter Dow and concerned parents debating the controversy of MACOS. The moderator wanted Dow to admit that the most important thing you can teach a child is faith. Dow argued the most important thing for the child is to keep an open, inquisitive mind.

Ovide Allakannuak (02:11)

View film footage of young Ovide and his life now. In Arizona, Congressman Conlan argued the Netsilik tribe is too primitive to be an example of culture for American children.

John and Judy (03:20)

Watch historical footage of MACOS students. Their filmed responses in the classroom were used by Congressman Conlan as proof of subterfuge and the undermining of American values.

Worries For the Future (01:32)

Scenes of snowmobiles, houses, sled dogs, and bicycles punctuate Ovide's recollections of the film. He says he is happy today but not as happy as he was in the past. He worries for the future, concerned whether the children will practice their traditions.

Awareness (02:17)

Judy recollects that some children may have been impacted by the curriculum and some may have benefited. View footage of a school board meeting with angry parents bashing educators. Bruner states without awareness there is moral and mental death.

Happiness (03:13)

Snowmobiles parked outside of the Christian church highlight change in Pelly Bay. View an emotional reunion between Balikci and film participant Agnes Irkowagtok. When she followed the Inuit way she was happy, though she had nothing. One of her children committed suicide and she is angry and struggles to understand.

Inuit Sermon (01:23)

Witness Christian Inuit church services.

MACOS Still Controversial (03:37)

Conlan aid Archibald comments how the philosophical nature of MACOS was fraught with peril. Dow responds with concerns that America is still an anti-intellectual country and that we are naive about other cultures. Conlan still insists values instilled by parents were being undercut by the MACOS program.

Retaining Culture (04:02)

Film participants comment on American reaction to their culture. The films were rescued by Dow and are stored in his basement. In 1975 funding was withdrawn and MACOS disappeared from classrooms. Comments from film participants reveal many Netsilik Eskimos have proudly retained their native culture.

Credits: Through These Eyes (01:26)

Credits: Through These Eyes

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Through These Eyes: The Inuit, MACOS, and the Politics of Education

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Part of the curriculum of Man: A Course of Study, or MACOS, looked to the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic to help American students see their own society in a new way. This riveting documentary reveals how an educational dream became a bitter political battle over cultural differences. MACOS was an innovative social sciences program designed to teach American children “what it was to be human.” At its core was the Netsilik Eskimo Series of films, an acclaimed benchmark of visual anthropology that captured a year in the life of an Inuit family living in the remote Canadian Arctic. But the graphic images of the Netsilik people created a clash of values that tore rifts in communities across America and revealed a fragile relationship between politics and education. Through These Eyes looks back at the high stakes of this controversial curriculum. Decades later, as American influence continues to affect cultures worldwide, the story of MACOS resonates strongly. (67 minutes)

Length: 68 minutes

Item#: BVL52045

Copyright date: ©2004

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video customers.

Only available in USA.