Debs first draft

kMusic Within
Health, U.S. History/1970’s-80’s; Vietnam English
SEL Breaking Out, Disabilities, Friendship
Moral Ethical Responsibility Caring
Age 14+ MPAA rating – R for language and some marijuana use by Vietnam
Description: Richard Pimentel has had a very rocky childhood. When he is denied
the opportunity to attend college on a public speaking scholarship, he enlists
in the army and is sent to Vietnam in 1970, where a bombing raid leaves him
deaf, with incurable tinnitus. Returning to Portland State on a veteran’s
scholarship, he meets the brilliant and witty Art, who is confined to a
wheelchair with cerebral palsy. The two become close friends. Richard is
appalled by the hostile discrimination that Art faces in public. Angry at the
pervasive prejudice that greets disabled Vietnam veterans and civilians, he
finds his life’s purpose in advocating for equal treatment under the law. His
(and others) activities lead to the drafting and passage of the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990, but has his early life trauma
left him too scarred for a fulfilling personal life? Based on a true story.
Benefits: Most of today’s high school students are completely unaware of
the prejudice against disabled people that existed in the U S as recently as
20-40 years ago. There were actually “ugly laws”, which made it illegal for
“deformed” people to appear in public. The Americans with Disabilities Act
outlawed discrimination in education, employment and physical access.
The Act both depended on changing societal attitudes, and in turn catalyzed
further evolution. Students absorb these developments as they follow the
progress of Richard and Art’s friendship.
Students will also learn about the plight of returning Vietnam veterans, who
were vilified by anti-war protesters.
Finally, they see an example of someone who had a difficult start in life, and
wrestled with its effects even as he continued to build a meaningful career.
The film’s great pop music score and visuals bring the changing decades
vividly to life.
Additionally, students who have suffered early life trauma, or are wrestling
with the effects of life in a dysfunctional family, can come to understand the
connections between their personal histories and current challenges, and
perhaps be motivated to get help.
Possible problems : Music Within is rated R for language, with some sexual
references, and for some drug content. Vietnam veterans are shown
smoking marijuana and drinking during a therapy or rap session. The drug
use is not shown in a positive light, and is not pervasive, but is realistic.
There is virtually no interpersonal violence. TWM believes that the value of
the film far outweighs these issues.
Teachers should go over the information in the student handout and review the
worksheet questions before beginning the film. For longer assignments,
students can write one of the persuasive essays, or work individually or in
teams on one of the suggested projects.
Film Worksheet
Teacher: Stop film at death of father for the following prediction question:
1) Will Richard’s early life experiences affect his adult life?
2) Is killing chickens a good job for a child? Why or why not?
3) Do you agree with Richard’s elementary school teacher Mr. Parks (and
originally Oliver Wendell Holmes) that, "Most people go to their graves
with their music still inside them"? Do you concur that most people
never discover their true talent and ability? Explain.
4) The character of Richard introduces his life’s story by saying, "I was born
with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. I’ve been pissed off ever
since. " Name two incidences where Richard’s anger boiled over.
(With Christine and Nicos in the skating rink; with the nasty man at the
Veteran’s Administration who said he wouldn’t authorize money for Richard
to go to college; with the man who was complaining about having to spend
money to make his bar accessible to disabled people;
5) Was Professor Padrow initially too harsh on Richard?
What factor contributed to his negative attitude? (Padrow reveals it to Richard
later in the movie.)
6) What do you think would happen today to a government bureaucrat who
spoke to a citizen the way the VA official spoke to Richard about the scholarship
7)Why do you think Richard is the only person in the student center who is
sympathetic when Art is wrestling with the soda’s pop top lid?
8) Why is Richard not put off by Art’s disability?
9) Why does Richard laugh when Art says , "This may be
9) When Richard is trying to catch a ride with Christine, we hear a music track with
the lyrics, "Any trick in the book baby, that I can find. " What was
Richard’s trick? Tearing down her ride signs…Are there any other lyrics in the film
score that match or comment on the action? "We’ve got to get out of this
place": Vietnam; "It’s your thing, do what you want to do":
Pushing Art on the skate floor; "Magic Carpet Ride": Christine, Richard
and Art driving to San Francisco; "Don’t You Want Somebody to Love":
With Christine at the concert after he and Art have snuck in;
"Stuck in the Middle with You": Living with Christine, continuing to help
Art with tasks of everyday living.
10) Richard didn’t want Christine to have any other man in her life. But who or
what was Christine’s competition for Richard’s attention?
11) Why does Mike drop his cigarette on Richard’s floor?
12) Both Mike and Richard suffer from anger management issues. What is the
source of Mike’s PTSD? Which of the two men is better able to deal with the
frustrations of daily life?
13) What did Dr. Padrow mean when he said to Richard, "You don’t have to
change their minds about people with disabilities. You have to change their
minds about themselves"?
Near the end of the movie, Richard visits his institutionalized mother to tell her
about his career success. Much earlier in the film, he narrates the scene
about winning the blue ribbon at school, and finding her passed out at
another ghostly birthday party for one of her miscarried babies. He says,
"She survived this time, only to leave me a few months later. " In
what way does she leave him when he is still a child? What can you infer
about the roots of his workaholism? What is he trying to prove?
Write a one paragraph response.
Write a persuasive essay about one of these characters in the movie:
Thesis: Richard’s Vietnam vet friend Mike suffered from post traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD); or,
Thesis statement: Richard Pimentel suffers from early-life trauma.
Include evidence of the causes and effects of these disorders which are outlined in
the handout, and scenes from the movie that display these causes and
Student Handout
RICHARD PIMENTEL: WHAT’S TRUE: He was pronounced dead after birth. His
mother had three miscarriages and left him in an orphanage. After his Dad
died, he was raised by his grandmother. He didn’t speak till age six. . He was
labeled "retarded" in school. The strip bar was actually his
Dad’s old workplace. Richard lived and slept in a dressing room there when
he had no other place to stay.
His encounters with Dr. Ben Padrow, who created the College Bowl TV quiz show,
were true, as was his deployment to Vietnam and the resulting injury,
hearing loss, and tinnitus.
He and Art were arrested for being “unsightly’ in public when they went to the
pancake house at 3 AM. The waitress called Art “the ugliest, most disgusting
thing” she had ever seen. They were arrested under a municipal “Ugly Law”, See below.
This incident propelled Richard and Art into the activities that culminated in the
Americans with Disabilities Act. Law professor Robert Burgdorf Jr. wrote
the first draft of the Act in 1987. President George H W Bush signed the bill
into law in 1990. Richard’s "Tilting at Windmills" employer
training program transformed the American workplace.
Richard’s love affair with Christine was brought down by his obsessive devotion
to his work. The film’s director Steven Sawelich has said, "He
abandoned Christine much like his mother abandoned him when he was
younger. Richard set a path to prove to himself and his mother that he was
good enough to live. For Richard, Christine was another accomplishment in
his quest for self-righteousness. " John P.Meyer’s interview with director Steven
Americans with Disabilities Act
This law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in a similar
manner to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination
against minorities in public accommodations.. A disability is defined as a
"physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life
As of 1992, all new construction of a certain size has to be compliant with the Act.
(Ramps, elevators, etc.)
In 2010, President Obama declared December 3rd as the International Day of
Persons with Disabilities in the United States.
Ugly Laws, which eventually spread to other countries, were enacted in
midwestern and western U S cities as part of urban reform movements in
the late 1800s . They were designed to regulate and sanitize rapidly growing
urban areas by keeping them clear of beggars (some of whom were able
bodied hustlers). The laws were originally intended to get the physically
deformed and mentally impaired into the minimally charitable almshouses,
end begging by the non impaired, and placate merchants. In the end,
classism and racism conflated with the fact of disability to create individual
and institutional distaste and prejudice against the disabled. The first Ugly
Law was enacted in San Francisco in 1867. The last was wiped off the books
in 1974 in Chicago.
PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) According to the National Institute of
Mental Health, PTSD” is an anxiety disorder that many people get after
seeing or living through a dangerous event. For example, soldiers, plane
crash survivors, and eyewitnesses to shooting rampages are vulnerable to .
PTSD, which manifests itself in nightmares, flashbacks, outbursts of anger,
depression, suicidal thoughts, etc.
Recent research findings indicate that EARLY- LIFE TRAUMA may make people
more vulnerable to PTSD later in life (if exposed to a triggering event) by
altering the wiring of the developing brain. Both severe single instances and
repeated milder trauma (for example, loss of parents, neglect, living with an
alcoholic or drug addicted family member) can constitute early- life trauma.
Early -life trauma and PTSD can also result in physiological problems and
illness. A 2010 study in collaboration with Emory University concluded
that “ There is ample evidence from ….that adverse experience early in life,
during periods of heightened brain plasticity, permanently programs the
development of multiple brain circuits involved in the processing of
environmental stimuli and the regulation of behavioral, autonomic, and
endocrine responses to stress “
In other words, people who have suffered trauma as children are more vulnerable to certain physical and
psychological problems due to altered neurological development. Additionally, a study published in the Journal
of Traumatic Stress in the same year cited trauma in childhood as a risk factor for obesity in adulthood. Almost 80
percent of the women in the study had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or both.
The women who reported abuse were more likely to experience PTSD and depression, and were also more likely
to be overweight in adulthood.
The loss of his mother’s attention and caring due to mental illness had a major
effect on Richard’s personal life as an adult. As Richard the character says in
the film, he went into career overdrive to gain his mother’s approval and
affection, something she was incapable of giving. His father’s premature
death added to Richard’s early emotional void.
Cerebral Palsy - The Mayo clinic defines CP as
“…a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by injury or
abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth.” In
situations in which the brain is deprived of oxygen the areas that control
voluntary motor skills die first as oxygen is concentrated in those parts of
the brain that control thought and involuntary muscle functions such as
heartbeat and breathing. People who survive anoxia, like Art, often have
their full intelligence but their brain cannot communicate with their muscles.
[check this out*&*] CP is neither progressive nor contagious.
Tinnitus is a ringing, whistling, or whooshing sound inside the ear/head without a
corresponding external sound stimulus. The Mayo Clinic’s web page states
that “ …tinnitus affects about 1 in 5 people. Tinnitus isn't a condition itself —
it's a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss,
ear injury or a circulatory system disorder.”
Moderate to high level in-ear headphones, heavily amplified music, and noisy
industrial environments can also cause both tinnitus and hearing loss. Like
many disorders, the syndrome occurs along a continuum. Some people are
severely disabled by persistent, invasive ringing. Others notice it only when
they read or think about it!
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