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James Franco to teach high-school film class

Original post made on Sep 6, 2015

People like to use the phrase, "Only in Palo Alto." It certainly will be thrown around with the news that actor and Palo Alto native James Franco will be making a film with local high school students this year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, September 6, 2015, 12:07 PM

Comments (48)

Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 6, 2015 at 4:55 pm

Does He have a teaching credential? Or just because he made some movies qualify him for the job?

Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Sounds great. Nice to see an alumnus giving back.
But, thanks Gus for immediately trying to find something negative about it.

Posted by hello
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2015 at 6:07 pm

Sorry to to find a few more negatives, but the celebrity celebration is unnecessary.

Maybe as an after school program. During the school day it seems inappropriate to have non-credentialed teachers running seminars.

Posted by Heidi
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2015 at 6:15 pm

I think it's great! He has taught at the college level and I think makes him qualified. I'm grateful that he is willing. This kind of giving back will change lives.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

on Sep 6, 2015 at 7:05 pm

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Posted by NotAFan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Uh, as my Name: infers, I am not really a fan.

But here is an opportunity for some people to meet and work with
someone who really does have a lot of experience, from what I have
heard in a lot of things, and at a high level with much success.
What is wrong with that?

I don't see how it is helpful or insightful to question whether he has
a teaching credential ... can't se assume that his suitable to teach
might have been vetted before it makes it to the pages of Palo Alto

Seriously, if high schoolers got more experience and familiarity
as well as internships, their understanding of the world can be
significantly increased. I wish they had had something like this
for my generation, and in fact those kids who have parents,
relatives or friends are miles ahead of those in regular school
with no access to serious people in the economy.

Seems like a good idea to me, in fact they ought to do more
stuff like it, and we ought to be grateful that people do it. Or
he might be trying to live out his Palo Alto movie in some way.
Better have an adult around at all times! ;-)

Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 6, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Gus L. - As if a credential makes some CTA/NEA union [portion removed] more qualified to teach filmmaking than an actual filmmaker?

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles (B.A.)
Columbia University (M.F.A.)
New York University (M.F.A.)
Brooklyn College (M.F.A.)
Warren Wilson College (M.F.A.)
Yale University (Ph.D. student)
Rhode Island School of Design (attended)

Any questions?

Posted by PAUSD Opportunity!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2015 at 10:01 pm

If only Mr. Franco could accommodate more than 24 students! I hope this program continues and is expanded in future years!

Posted by PAUSD Opportunity!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2015 at 10:04 pm

@Crescent Park Dad:

Are those Mr. Franco's credentials? What is and "M.F.A." and why are there four of them?

Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2015 at 11:26 pm

If this is not a PAHS or even PAUSD class, as outside district students can apply, why would PAUSD pay any of the costs? I'd assume the class will use the Paly media arts center. Wouldn't they be charging a usage fee as they do for their other facilities?

I don't understand why the district would incur any expenses.

Posted by Right up his alley
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 6, 2015 at 11:30 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2015 at 12:07 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Gus L "Does He have a teaching credential?"

This is likely a reference to "ancient history" - several instances in the 1960s/1970s where famous artists offered to teach similar types of classes in major city school systems. This spawned lots of "mis-remembered" stories of different artists and different school systems. The most famous version was that the conductor Leonard Bernstein was invited by one of his old teachers in the Chicago School System to give a series of classes on music, but was blocked. I don't remember if this was one of the urban legends.

The "no teaching credential" was a bureaucratic/legalistic rationalization for very different objections.

Posted by Analuisa Alvarez
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2015 at 2:02 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Therish Getrisher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2015 at 7:42 am

It says film class students get preference - how many are there versus how many slots? Is the class a both high schools or is just at Paly? (Don't want to sound ungrateful - think this is wonderful - but if no one else cares about fairness in this town(!), at least Woj should.)

Posted by MV Reader
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 7, 2015 at 8:44 am

@PAUSD Opportunity:

M.F.A. is a post-graduate degree: Master of Fine Arts. It is not solely for visual arts. For example, Juilliard offers an M.F.A. in Theater. Locally, schools such as American Conservatory Theater and the San Francisco Art Institute have M.F.A. programs.

Also, the M.F.A. is offered in some programs at the various University of California campuses as well as the California State University system. Both systems also offer the M.A. (Master of Arts) degree in some programs.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2015 at 8:56 am

PAUSD Opportunity,

M.F.A. = Master of Fine Arts, a post-graduate degree

Most universities off the degree in some of their programs. The UC and CSU schools most certainly do.

Posted by Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 7, 2015 at 9:24 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Age
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2015 at 9:33 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by happy camper
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 7, 2015 at 10:36 am

This is fabulous, and what an opportunity! Arts are so often the last supported area of study in high school, and here we have a top notch opportunity that benefits the entire community!
Kudos to the Franco family for giving so much to the present and the future Palo Alto community :)

Let's expand it to include a successful visual artist as well!

Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:11 am

I think it is fair to describe James Franco as something of a polarizing figure. If this workshop is delivered as a team-teaching format with a credentialed teacher, then I see no problem with the lack of an M.Ed. from Mr. Franco's MFA collection. Even though James is from Palo Alto, he is not universally popular so I understand many of the comments posted here. While there some intrinsic value from the class can be expected, it's more realistic to expect a long waiting list for this celebrity event with all of the publicity attached. Don't worry, be happy with it. :)

Posted by Longtime PA Resident
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:13 am

PA is really something else and this reflects more on how it constantly turns for the worse. Why do folks throw the credential, education card in this? Some of the worst teachers are highly credentialed yet suffer basic understanding and communication of their subject. I guess this city would rather have a credentialed PE teacher teach baseball, than an ex-major leaguer who is 10 times more qualified to teach the game. Really? I'd take an experienced filmmaker, actor any day over someone who only knows his field by a 'book'.

Posted by Dt north
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:17 am

Are some of you actually trying to imply that someone with a liberal arts BA and a CA teaching credential would be better qualified to teach a film class?? While I don't know how to fairly give out spots for these types of classes I think that it would be great if some of the many local experts would be willing to teach seminar classes in their fields to local high school students. I know these types of classes might have provided me with better direction regarding what field to pursue and what careers are out there. Why don't you all instead thank James Franco for donating his time rather than immediately finding something negative to post. Though the negative people seem to always be the ones who post on this forum. Hopefully this attitude is not representative of our city.

Posted by Reader
a resident of another community

on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:22 am

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Posted by Media circus
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:32 am

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Posted by Karen
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:50 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by A
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:54 am

I really think James Franco should be teaching this at a college level since he has a Masters level education. There he can teach without a California teaching credential. However, this class should be held after school or working with another credentialed teacher. This would keep everything uniform in the standards in Palo Alto. Everyone has to meet the standards otherwise why are we paying teachers so much? We shouldn't just let anyone come in if they don't meet the standards regardless of their fame.

Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 7, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

It occurs to me the boy Franco was when he lived here would never be able to get into this course and probably wouldn't try even if he could. I think it's wonderful that Franco wants to share what he has learned and even take the time to let young people make the kind of connections that might help them have real careers.

My own high schooler was interested for a day, then weighed the chances of getting in against the "opportunity cost" of spending the time applying. The deal breaker in his mind was having to work on someone else's project rather than one of his own. His grandfather had a really unusual life and he wants to write a screenplay about him, especially since he retired this year which is really hard on workaholic types.

That is the big problem for me when traditional schools go project based. They often still don't give kids the independence to come up with and work on their own projects. That said, baby steps. Esther Wojcicki has cleverly figured out how to make change that no one can argue with. I hope there will be some parity/fairness across the campuses. (The article says all kids are welcome but I don't think our district allows homeschool students to take district classes.)

Posted by Mjm1
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 7, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Mjm1 is a registered user.

The article does not say this is a class for credit. It implies that it is after school/after hours. As such, there is no requirement other than a criminal background check for all the non credentialed "instructors" involved, including Mr Franco to participate. An advanced degree, even a PhD does not qualify someone to teach in CA without a teaching credential--go figure. The fact that it is being sponsored by a PALY high school teacher may indicate it should be done for credit, but I do not know how PAUSD could give HS credit to anyone not enrolled in their district. Also there are no learning standards set for this class and the article does not indicate that the school board approved it as a for credit course--both of which requirements, I believe must be met for a for credit class.

If that is the case, everyone should relax, and appreciate what a great opportunity this extracurricular class is for the kids!

Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 7, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

"but I do not know how PAUSD could give HS credit to anyone not enrolled in their district"

That's just a logistics issue that depends on local board policy and administrators. Homeschoolers don't really care about getting credit for the classes, usually. They're usually homeschooling to prioritize learning. In fact, they're more likely to have a project-based worldview, it's one of the biggest reasons people choose to homeschool.

But if people do care, our district does do concurrent enrollments as well as take from and transfer credits to private schools, which is what homeschools technically are in California. There are districts even in the area that allow homeschoolers to enroll in district classes. In some districts, there is a limit of two classes per semester because of funding issues, but PAUSD is funded differently, so I'm not sure that applies. I've read the board policy here but our experience is that policy is unenforceable in practice and what happens is whatever the current administration decides it is willing to do for whomever is asking.

Posted by Becky Stillwell
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Becky Stillwell is a registered user.

I think it's great, and I wish I were young enough to sign up. What a bunch of ruddy-duddies!

Posted by Becky Stillwell
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Becky Stillwell is a registered user.

Fuddy-duddies, but you got that, right?

Posted by LAHscot
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 7, 2015 at 5:47 pm

LAHscot is a registered user.

And: "Only in Palo Alto" will gift horses continue to be subjected to a full dental exam. Bravo to Mr. Franco....

Posted by jet pilot
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 7, 2015 at 8:02 pm

jet pilot is a registered user.

This is very cool! I'm sure this will be a great experience. Exposing young people to creative people like this is fantastic. Good on Mr. Franco for wanting to "give back."

Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2015 at 9:09 pm

Roger Dodger is a registered user.

Most people who think teaching "can't really be all that hard" and that anyone with a BA and some professional experience can do it have never been within 100 yards of a classroom and would most likely melt down within 5 minutes of having to manage a roomful of kids. I am sure James Franco would be a great person for our kids to glean insight from and would be a great addition to the classroom, but let's not kid ourselves that he would automatically be a great teacher. Teaching, especially in a setting like the one described, is a professional practice that takes time, dedication, discipline, and patience, and no small amount of skill to learn. It's not something anyone with a hankering to do can just pick up watching a DIY tutorial on YouTube. I am sure he will be a great PARTNER to a professional, accomplished, experienced, credentialed teacher.

Posted by houseofsilicon
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 7, 2015 at 9:10 pm

houseofsilicon is a registered user.

Whaaattt! OMG - only in Palo Alto would people find some reason to complain! The guy doesn't have to do this and what a thrill for the students who get to attend!

Now what can I whine about???

Posted by DeniseW
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 7, 2015 at 9:40 pm

DeniseW is a registered user.

The teacher for the workshop is Esther Wojcicki and she is being assisted by James Franco. He is actually a Workshop Leader. Also, look at his teaching background at the university level and his degrees. He would qualify in California for a credential easily. . Most high school teachers don't have the number of degrees and experience he has. .

As for the cost of the class, at the moment, the district is not paying any of the costs and Esther Wojcicki is donating her time and so is James Franco. Amazing to see the number of people who are complaining. What does it take to make people appreciative?

Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:24 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

To those who think "criticism" is unique to Palo Alto, I would invite you to try some more major online forums, like Huffington Post, New York Times, or read old newspaper letters to the editor - go back in time as far as you wish.

Actually, I have heard a local official with experience with different cities talk about how unhealthily UNcritical Palo Altans are, how in other cities he's worked with people are far more willing to call BS to the mat,especially if it comes from city staff or school officials.

I do however find it extremely tedious that Palo Alto seems to have so many people with nothing better to do than post over and over again to different threads criticizing anyone who voices any kind of dissent or criticism and that the moderators don't recognize this as "trollish" behavior as moderators on many other lists do. In isolation, such comments may seem harmless, but taken in whole and with their persistence, they suppress and divert discussion (often intentionally so).

To those who find any kind of concern or criticism - even such mild as above - so disgusting to their delicate sensibilities: Welcome to the real world and democracy. If people criticizing is so hard on your sensibilities, please realize that the incessant attacks on people voicing their opinions is far more annoying to some of the rest of us. While I don't really agree with the criticism of Mr. Franco here, and think the only problem here is likely to be the highly uneven offering of a cherry opportunity to the school community (hope I am wrong this time and glad if I am), I'd much rather read the diversity of opinions than the annoying drone of people who have nothing better to contribute than attacking others for expressing themselves on the topic.

Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2015 at 9:34 am

DTN Paul is a registered user.

Like some of the commenters here, it boggles my mind that there are complaints about this class. If you don't like it, just don't take the class, or ask your kids to not take the class. Whatever - just don't participate - you probably wouldn't get in anyway - there are only a few spots.

And @greenacres, don't you find it ironic that you are criticizing people for criticizing people for criticizing people? If you're so enlightened, perhaps you could show us the way and refrain from commenting.

Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 8, 2015 at 11:21 am

Greenacres is a registered user.

DTN Paul,
I see no irony in defending free speach even if I disagree with it, and standing up against trollish and bullying behavior on online forums.

Forums like these are for people to express themselves. While you and I may feel the criticisms of Mr. Franco leveled so far on this thread are unwarranted, I strongly support the right of people to express their opinions, and frankly, so should the Weekly since that is the ostensible purpose of such forums.

When I read an opinion I disagree with, I am capable of holding my own, engaging in the discussion, and expressing my own opinion in return. Persistently criticizing others for having differing opinions or expressing criticism is trollish behavior sometimes crossing the line to ad hominem or bullying, as you have just done. This has become particularly a problem in city-related and school district related threads, topics in need of healthy and diverse discussion. The behavior discourages some people from speaking up, far worse than clapping in support of points, for example, in public meetings where just affirmative clapping behavior is discouraged by moderators for its suppression of diverse input. Imagine if instead the Council and plants from special interests could stand up every few minutes and shout down anyone who expressed criticism as engaging in some kind of abhorrent social gaffe. When the Weekly allows the overt shouting down of criticism and differing opinions to dominate so much, and its pervasive presence in every discussion, it destroys honest healthy discourse.

The only irony I see here is the vehemence with which you and others wish to suppress and even bully others who have opinions different than yours in a story about a class overseen by an award winning journalism teacher (who outed serious malfeasance in the school district when Mr. Franco was a student, no less.) The criticisms of Mr. Franco's class are pretty mild anyway. That you would react so strongly to my defense of free speach even though we share the same opinion about the specific issue only makes it more clear that the trollish behavior is important to you out of proportion to this issue itself. The need to suppress others' opinions is usually a power issue, something we very much should start to address, not suppress, in this town.

Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2015 at 2:19 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

@greenacres, the irony of your statement is not in defending free speech. That's totally cool.

The irony comes from the fact that you were, on the one hand, claiming to defend free speech, while simultaneously complaining about other people's' totally valid free speech.

I certainly do not want to be a bully, so I hope it's not bullying to point out the only person who called anyone names on this thread is you. You're the one who referred to some of the commenters as "trolls," and "bullys." I don't see any other name calling. I think that's kind of ironic also.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Wow -- I am not a big fan of James Franco (well, some of his work), but this is a good thing for aspiring film students.

Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 8, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

DTN Paul,

Discussing an issue and disagreeing with others is free speech. Constantly interrupting the discussion to criticize other PARTICIPANTS in the discuss for the sincere way they participate in discussing the issue may be free speech, too, but it's also trollish, because it has the effect of being intimidating and suppressive of free speech in others. (And it's inflammatory and throws off the discussion.)

I stand by my example of clapping in public forums. Clapping to support an issue may be considered free speech, even affirmative and positive, but it's also discouraged by moderators of public forums because it can be intimidating to people with opposing views, especially those in a minority who need to be heard. Again, what if instead of just clapping affirmation, those same people were allowed to stand up and shout down others for their views and attack them personally for them? There's a big difference between leveling criticism in an issue, and constantly criticizing the people trying to discuss and express their possibly unpopular views. So no, there is no irony in my differentiating between those or calling out the latter for the suppressive behavior. This is happening now in virtually every city and school forum I visit -- an ever louder ad hominem drone about Palo Altans themselves diverts the discussion if anyone so much as hints at a concern or complaint.

The constant haranguing of other people as if (major or minor) criticism is itself some kind of horrible disease of Palo Altans (especially when criticism of public issues is already relatively so tame here and Palo Altans are already so timid about standing up and criticizing when things are really wrong) is suppressive and can be intentionally suppressive. At the very least, it constantly throws off the discussion on the actual issue. At worst, it's trollish and bullying.

While I appreciate you correcting your tone in the follow up, you actually told me overtly to "refrain from commenting". I have by contrast defended people expressing their views on the issue, even views I don't agree with. I never in any way asked ANYONE to stop commenting on the issue at hand, just asked people to stop attacking those whose views they don't like, it's throwing off honest discussion on these civic forums (especially school discussions). I hope you can see that constantly slamming other people for speaking up with a criticism is suppressive of a diversity of opinions. Our civic and school threads are being constantly diverted by a steady stream of discussion-oppressing charges against anyone who expresses criticism on an issue. I made my point because I would like to see the Weekly defend the integrity of the discussion in this particular regard. (4th estate and all that)

Posted by Recent Paly Alum
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Recent Paly Alum is a registered user.

I can tell from many of these comments that many of you did not read the whole article...first off, the class is not for credit. It says so right in the article. It also states that Woj is donating her time and James Franco is covering the costs for the expenses are being used by PAUSD. Even if the course was for credit, it is pretty simple to obtain an emergency teaching credential.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

I'm not surprised by those who wanted to criticize this class by asking if Franco is a credentialed teacher. The class isn't even for credit. But can you imagine the inspiration and memories for the students?! But the "only in Palo Alto" smug line - now that's silly. So many accomplished people return to their hometowns to contribute - even outside of Palo Alto. In fact, there's a thread here at PA Online about another talented local whose still involved with her community.

Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2015 at 8:47 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

It may have thrown a few people off that it is a Paly teacher and the new Paly Media Arts Center which will be used for this class.

It sounds more like the Children's Theater concept, open to all Bay Area students. Or a sports team practicing on school property. I think sports teams rent school property. Variety of Summer camps rent school property as well.

As long as the use of school property is run on the same basis as it is for other organizations, it doesn't seem like it should be an issue.

Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2015 at 7:47 am

outsider is a registered user.

I agree that he is qualified to run an after school program but, by law he needs to have a background check and he was arrested last year for soliciting "a minor. I would not trust this English teacher to make sure content in the "film" is above board. On the other hand, he is funny and has a knack for shaking things up.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Outsider - one of the ways to avoid having to get fingerprinted in order to work with minors is to be partnered with an unrelated adult. But when someone is famous, accessible and has contacted a student in a program outside of the program, for questionable personal reasons? Not good. Re Franco, I didn't think he'd been arrested for soliciting a minor. IIRC, the Scottish youth was 17, the age of consent in NY. Was there an additional incident?

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