A few weeks ago we watched a 2006 documentary titled “Clearcut Philomath,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival that same year. Its subject was Philomath, Oregon located just outside Corvallis, Oregon, which at the time was under a community seemingly divided between the “traditional” rural community and the “newer” residents of the past few decades.
As described in Wikipedia, “The roots of the community go back to a man named Rex Clemens, who lived from 1901 to 1985. He was actually a high school dropout who became wealthy through the lumber business. Due to his wealth, Clemens setup a foundation in 1958 that helped support school functions, construction, and progress while also providing a four-year scholarship to anybody who graduated from Philomath High School.”
While the movies tone was cast as objective, it came with an attitude, which you can read in Wikipedia’s review noting Clemens was a high school dropout (never mind that and 8th grade education was closer to the norm when Clemens was in school), and as annoying the reference “due to his wealth” rather than the more accurate “due to his generosity.” Perspective and respect for accuracy are jettisoned when you have your own axe to grind in today’s journalism.
The point of the film pointed to what was cast as the old against the new, however the larger message throughout the movie appeared to be those stuck in the past forever reluctant to change with the times.
A few issues that were lost in between, not the least of which was the generosity of the Clemens family using their money to fund scholarships to Oregon State University from those graduating from the local high school.
It was NOT public money but money earned by the Clemens family and intended to be spent to enrich the youth of the community.
Also missed was the reality as people discovered this trust existed many moved to Philomath to fund their offspring’s college education. To some of us, that might appear to be sheer greed on the part of those individuals taking advantage of something they’d done nothing to deserve. Somehow that aspect was missed entirely.
While the undercurrent of the movie was the Clemen’s Foundation having made a mistake, there was no hint, or possibility that some within the professional education community perhaps being “wrong” in some of what was done, that ultimately provoked the Foundation’s action in changing the parameters of the scholarships.
In the end, the movie seemed to skirt the rampant “entitlement” attitude of the school’s administration, the school board, many students, and some within the community. It’s an attitude we see far beyond this community and well beyond the borders of the United States as well.
At its conclusion the movie took the “Hollywood” cheap out of Rednecks vs. Progressives.
But the reality was quite different, and brings to mind the narrow definition of tolerance in today’s America where one audience is very tolerant of their own beliefs, and utterly intolerant of any who have the gall to disagree and are written off as being narrow, stupid, and steeped in ignorance.
Solving an issue requires tolerance in both directions, respect, and a willingness to accept fault in your own reasoning, while admitting your foe may be right.